-Sandra Stevenson

I am here today to support the option of keeping both OSCVI and West Hill Secondary School as Grade 7 to 12 schools. I would like to share several points to support this option as providing the best possible scenario for intermediate senior education in this board for the near and distant future.

1. Continuing with two intermediate senior schools will maintain opportunities for a wide variety of curricular programming – including the provision of Tech/Shop programmes at WHSS and Arts/Theatre, Dance, Horticulture at OSCVI. Students in our community will continue to move between the schools as they have for decades to access programmes they need. For students who may struggle in one school and who might

benefit from a fresh start in the other, the option is there, and has been used many times over the years to support students at risk.

2. Programming for Grade 7 and 8 students in the two secondary schools will be enhanced by access toscience labs, performing arts spaces, technology workshops, athletic facilities and playing fields. For a number of years, Bluewater board spent hundreds of thousands of dollars sending Grade 7 and 8 students to Technology Centres in our high schools to enhance their programming. Those programmes provided

outstanding opportunities for our students to explore many technologies; but, sadly, the cost of this type of off-site programming could not be maintained in the budget.

With 7 to 12 schools, we can maintain labs and shops in both schools – and provide outstanding opportunities for kids. At West Hill students will be able to access Woodshop, Auto, Machine Shop and others; at OSCVI there are great opportunities for Performance Arts Technology, Media Technology, Sound and Light Technology, Horticulture, Health Sciences. These technologies feed into the High Skills Major Initiative, which has been such a wonderful programming option for so many students.

3. This scenario will also maintain opportunities for a wide variety of extra-curricular activities to be provided in both schools – something documented to be so important for school success. The 5 period day suggested in the 'everyone to West Hill' scenario will significantly impact the ability to provide student activities in a common lunch hour. Schools scheduled in this way seemed to become "credit factories" in the past, and lost

many of the important opportunities for creating community within a school, and encouraging students to become involved in activities that may become life- long passions. Students who are bussed from long distances to their school, have a much reduced opportunity to socialize and get involved in their school, if there is no common break during the school day. Many parents drive their kids to before and after school

practices and rehearsals. Adding that extra drive across the city early in the morning or late at night may be an extra impediment for those living on the eastern boundaries of the Owen Sound area – and we very likely will see a further drop in participation.

4. Public education will be provided on both east and west sides of the Owen Sound area, reducing the need to bus huge numbers of students to schools they wouldn't reasonably/easily walk to. We will lose students to St. Mary's if OSCVI were to close.

5. An elementary school approaching 800 to 1000 students in the OSCVI building will not be well received by many parents of young children– and I believe the public board will lose many students to the Catholic schools in the city.

Before closing, I must address some additional points that I wish the Board to keep in mind in these deliberations:

 The citizens of Owen Sound and surrounding community stepped up, in a large way, to support the rebuilding of OSCVI, because it is such an important educational, historical, social and cultural centre of this area. I believe that one of the arguments for keeping the Chesley District High School from closing was that the community had come together to raise the funds for a major addition – the gymnasium – at that school. So too has the Owen Sound community done this – raised several hundred thousand dollars to support the building of the new school – and to provide not only a wonderful arts facility for students into the future; but also an arts and culture centre for the community.

The loss of an outstanding arts education and arts technology facility to secondary education is significant. The auditorium/theatre/dance and music facility at OSCVI is unique in Ontario – but it is really more connected to the intermediate/senior not the primary/junior curriculum.

Major donors came forward to support the OSCVI rebuilding and it is an insult to them to suddenly announce the closing of that facility as a secondary school.

 OSCVI, through its alumni, has maintained an outstanding repository of historical records and archival material which is accessed on a regular basis for historical research about our region – curriculum research, family searches, social research, military history research. To my knowledge, there is no other school in the province with such a rich archive available on site for curriculum and other support. Great thought must be given to the huge loss this resource will be for secondary students and this community should OSCVI close as a secondary school.

I know that you are aware of many other challenges that come with closing the most historical school in our region, perhaps our province. I trust that the option of closing OSCVI as a secondary school would only be the choice of this Board if clear and publicly shared financial and enrolment data makes it the only option – and if there is confidence that it is the best educational scenario for our students and for the future of public education in our area.


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