Dear Trustees, Owen Sound City Council; BWDSB; Larry Miller, MP; Bill Walker, MPP
The decision being made Tuesday April 19th, will change the face of education in the Owen Sound area for at least the next 20 years. The board has recognized the minimum times necessary for an ARC review, but the final proposal has only been on the table since March 1st. That is less than two months to co-ordinate with municipalities and communicate with partners.
The final plan is to have one high school at West Hill over-capacity with a plan to build a new high school, site yet to be determined. The second part of that plan is to make OSCVI an elementary school and renovate it as such.
There are many points of the plan that I don’t believe have been discussed in full with the community or with municipal partners as per board policies.
Elementary - To close most of the elementary schools and make one super-school is a change of immense proportions. Is this really the best way we serve our children? Does OSCVI become a “super-elementary” school housing over a 1000 elementary kids with a bus terminus out front? Will this be the face of elementary education in Owen Sound: one large central processing centre? Gone will be community schools. Is this why people choose to live in smaller communities?
Transportation – To what extent has this been looked at? To move kids from east side of Owen Sound to the west side means bussing west on 10th Street, turning left at a flashing yellow, then travelling down residential streets with often only single lane use. At the front of West Hill, one bus cannot pass another, so a backlog ensues. Whereas, OSCVI has a four-lane road out front, a bus loop with ample room for buses to pass and leave the area. Parking is in short supply at West Hill and will overcrowd an already dense neighbourhood. Is this part of the city plan? Does this enhance Owen Sound? Will a stop light need to be installed where the flashing light is? What will the backlog in traffic be like in an already busy area? What do city planners say?
One high school at OSCVI – Is the funding formula that out of whack that it makes more sense to build an entirely new high school then to add an addition on to the current school? OSCVI is situated in a growth area with ample roadway and footprint space for expansion. Jobs are in the area as businesses expand to the east side of the city providing opportunities for after-school work and co-op placements, as well as collaboration with the neighbouring college. Would this not be a better site if the one high school model is chosen?
OSCVI alumni - The alumni helped to raise over $850,000 dollars toward the current OSCVI to fund the auditorium. As well, they continue to raise money through community events and provide scholarships to OSCVI students. To erase the school’s history, and their contribution in a less than two-month discussion is a rushed and hurried process. What has their input been? Have they even been advised by the BWDSB of the current recommendation? Has the Georgian Bay Symphony been advised as they still contribute to the auditorium through ticket sales?
Capital Planning – From the Community Planning and Partnership Document: “As part of the planning process, when considering building a new school or undertaking a significant addition or renovation, boards are expected to notify the entities on their notification list 1 to 3 years prior to the potential construction start date.” As the current proposal requires a significant renovation to OSCVI, has the board notified the municipal governments and community partners of this proposed renovation slated for 2016 / 2017?
These changes effect a majority of the students in the public system in the Owen Sound area. People have purchased homes close to schools, they’ve chosen rural areas to live in, they’ve chosen smaller schools.
The municipalities were brought in regarding the original plan of having West Hill and OSCVI become 7 to 12 schools. It is not my understanding that the current proposal has been reviewed by the city. As Owen Sound and Grey County look to their future, is this what they see? Have they been brought back in to review the current proposal?
The final report has failed to acknowledge the opposing views. While the March 23rd meeting was open to delegates and we were all heard, there is no indication that our concerns have been addressed or to acknowledge that significant opposition still exists within the community.
The extent of the changes being discussed needs more time to get everyone on board. To propose this at the beginning of March and vote on it mid-April with changes taking effect next September is steamrolling a proposal through without garnering the support of the community. It is a choice of numbers over people.
If this is indeed the right solution, I don’t believe the proper time and consideration has been given considering the scope of the proposed solution, and also considering how it was not the proposal originally put forward for consultation.
I respectfully ask the trustees to defer their decision for further study and input from ALL those affected.
Diane Ferguson, CPA, CA