Simcoe County District School Board staff is recommending the closure of Stayner Collegiate Institute, Elmvale District High School and Penetanguishene Secondary School.
The recommendation is in a report by associate director Lou Brandes, the board’s superintendent of facility services.
The report was released Thursday and presented to the board’s facility standing committee yesterday (Tuesday).
The board reviewed three recommendations made by an accommodation review committee (ARC) struck to consider enrolment and facility issues relating to five area high schools over the past year. It reviewed high schools in Collingwood, Stayner, Elmvale, Midland and Penetanguishene. Wasaga Beach was also considered in the review as a possible school site.
The ARC recommended maintaining all five schools and making improvements to each. It also recommended a six-school solution, in which a high school would also be built in Wasaga Beach and a four-school scenario, in which Penetanguishene and Midland secondary schools merge.
"The ARC recommended scenarios, while addressing accommodation, program and building condition pressures in the short term will not address long term pressures," reported Brandes.
"Staff recommend a three-school solution that will retain Collingwood Collegiate Institute in the west area, Midland Secondary School in the east area and a new Elmvale/Wasaga Beach secondary school in the central area of the ARC."
The decision is based on enrolment projections that will see the area’s student population of 4,290 decline to 3,794 in 2018. Those students would be dispersed between the new school, built to accommodate 1,000 people and the two existing schools, which would be expanded to accommodate 1,400 each.
The report recommends a review be undertaken to finalize attendance boundaries, which would determine which schools students attend depending on where they live.
The report contains a total of nine recommendations to the facility standing committee.
It recommends Elmvale District High School and Stayner Collegiate Institute close when the new secondary school is formed and that Penetanguishene Secondary School close on June 30, 2010.
It also recommends improvement be made to Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Midland Secondary School.
Staff is also advised to look for possible community partnerships when looking for a new school site.
Brandes reports that top up grants for school operations and renewal are dwindling so the board must address excess capacity in a timely fashion.
Officials estimate it will cost $23-million over the next 10 years to renew Stayner Collegiate Institute, Elmvale District High School and Penetanguishene Secondary School. It is estimated it will cost $16,502,448 to renew Collingwood Collegiate Institute and $20,145,117 to renew Midland Secondary School over the next 10 years.
Shawn Davidson, a Clearview Township councillor and member of the ARC, said he is disappointed with the recommendation to close Stayner, Elmvale and Penetanguishene high schools.
"I think the report is disturbing," he told The Stayner Sun on Monday. "The ARC put together recommendations based on a year’s worth of consultation and there isn’t a single person involved in this process that asked for this solution. Not a teacher, not a student, not a community. Nobody asked for three large schools. This (recommendation) is strictly based on a financial benefit to the board."
Davidson said the fight to keep the three high schools open will continue.
"We’re certainly not going to play dead over this," he said. "As a municipality – and hopefully parents and other residents – we’ll voice our concern over the prospect of losing our school. Clearview as a community is slated to grow. This doesn’t make sense."
Caroline Smith, Clearview’s trustee, also wasn’t happy with the staff recommendation.
"The Minister of Education recently spoke at a conference for school board trustees. She was very clear that the direction the government wants to take is partnerships between different ministries such as agriculture, health and education…to create community hubs that include schools, clinics, public libraries, etc. She supported rural hub schools and in fact encouraged trustees to look at options in this direction," Smith said. "These two key pieces…do not support the regional recommendation in the…staff report, nor the school closures."