Board required to carry out accommodation review
The school board had approached the parents last year, and asked them what they thought of transferring the Grade 4, 5 and 6 students to St. Anne, leaving the junior kindergarten to Grade 3 students at St. Mary.
English Catholic Grade 7 and 8 students in the community have already been sent to St. Anne for some time.
“The results of that meeting was that they said 'OK,' but the parents who had two siblings in that school wanted to bring their brother or sister with them to St. Anne,'” said Barry MacDonald, chair of the school board. “We agreed to that.”
The community's other elementary school, C.R. Judd Public School, has an enrolment of about 175 students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. Several parents said they'd send their children to this school, which is run by the Rainbow District School Board.
In the end, only four students would have been left at St. Mary, MacDonald said.
“We brought that information to the ministry, and they gave us permission to suspend the program at the school,” he said.
However, even though most parents agreed to have their children transferred to St. Anne, which is located about six kilometres away from Capreol, the school board is still required to go through an accommodation review process.
School boards are required to set up accommodation reviews when they're considering the future of a school or a group of schools.
According to a school board staff report presented at the Sept. 18 school board meeting, the accommodation review committee will be made up of several school board staff members, the school's principal, and a representative of the daycare centre operating at the school.
Public meetings will be held at St. Mary on Oct. 25, Nov. 29, Jan. 10 and Feb. 7.
However, an earlier public meeting held about the issue was only attended by three parents, MacDonald said.
“If there's no interest in the (accommodation review) process, we'll ask the ministry for an exemption,” he said. “Why carry out three more meetings if there's no interest in it? If there is, we'll continue on with the process.”
In the early 1970s, St. Mary was attended by 500 students, and had both French and English programs, MacDonald said. But the community's population has been dwindling over the years, he said.
“We closed the French side first due to attendance,” MacDonald said.
“Then, quite a few years later, we transferred the 7s and 8s out to St. Anne. We did everything we could to keep the school viable, but there was no interest in the community for it. We even tried offering French Immersion, and we had one parent show an interest in it.”
When asked if the Cliffs Natural Resources project might eventually bring enough children back to the community to make an English Catholic school viable again, MacDonald said it's unlikely. If there's a demand, the school board can always reexamine the issue, he said.