It seems the junior kindergarten to Grade 8 school is something of a dying breed at the Sudbury Catholic District School Board.
A capital plan presented at the board's Oct. 15 meeting shows Sudbury Catholic hopes to move many of its Grade 7 and 8 students into its four high schools over the next five years.
It's a model the board has already partly adopted, with Grade 7 and 8 students having been moved into both St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School and the all-girl Marymount Academy.
Placing Grade 7 and 8 students in the board's high schools maximizes the use of these buildings, where enrolment has been declining, said Dennis Bazinet, the board's superintendent of business and finance.
At the same time, Sudbury Catholic has been consolidating its elementary schools, thus reducing excess space.
At St. Benedict, a separate wing for Grade 7 and 8 students opened in 2011. Holy Cross Catholic Elementary School, which houses junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students, was opened on the same campus last year.
Board chair Jody Cameron said the arrangement maximizes retention rates by providing a continuum of care for students – they can attend the same school campus until they're in Grade 12.
Parents and kids seem to love it, he said, and enrolment has been rising.
“You have the separate wing, they're segregated from the rest, but you kind of get the big-school experience as they're transitioning from 7 and 8 into high school.”
The capital plan shows St. Benedict's Grade 7 and 8 contingent may soon grow even more. The board is planning to sen St. James Catholic Elementary School students in those grades to St. Benedict by September 2016.
“We've already received a few requests for parents saying the student's siblings have moved onto high school, and my child's in Grade 7 and 8, can they go to St. Benedict?” Cameron said.
“We're saying sure, because eventually that's the model we want to get to.”
The board also plans to replicate the St. Benedict-Holy Cross model on St. Charles College's campus.
Construction on a $15-million junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school on St. Charles' campus is due to start in July 2014 and be completed in November 2015.
The school, which at this point the board is referring to as the “East Elementary School,” as it has yet to be named, will be the result of the consolidations of St. Andrew, St. Bernadette and St. Raphael schools.
The board is looking to seek provincial funding to build a separate wing for the Grade 7 and 8 St. Raphael students at St. Charles, although the school may have to stay open if they don't receive the funding.
Sudbury Catholic is also due to begin construction on a $7.2-million replacement for St. David Catholic Elementary School in June 2014, with construction set to wrap up in July 2015.
Although St. David is currently a junior kindergarten to Grade 8 school, the new building is only supposed to go up to Grade 6. Grade 7 and 8 St. David students could end up going to either St. Benedict or St. Charles, Cameron said.
It's also possible the board could elect to keep them at the new St. David if the St. Charles addition doesn't go ahead, as there will be excess capacity at the new elementary school, he said.
Sudbury Catholic is also planning to offer Grade 7 and 8 programming at its fourth high school, Bishop Alexander Carter Catholic Secondary School.
These students would be coming from St. Anne Catholic Elementary School. The board is hoping to have renovations for a Grade 7 and 8 wing at Bishop Alexander Carter complete by September 2017.
It won't be the same model as St. Benedict and St. Charles, though, as the board doesn't have enough property at Bishop Alexander Carter to build a new junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school on the same campus, Cameron said.
If these changes go ahead, that would only leave three Sudbury Catholic junior kindergarten to Grade 8 schools – St. Charles elementary in Chelmsford, St. John elementary in Garson and St. Paul Catholic elementary in Coniston.
Bazinet said it's possible St. John and St. Paul's Grade 7 and 8 students could be transferred to St. Charles College in the future, although it's more of a longer-term possibility.
St. Charles elementary is a feeder school for Bishop Alexander Carter, but because it's relatively far away from the Hanmer high school, transferring its Grade 7 and 8 students is somewhat less likely, he said.
Other local Grade 7-12 schools:
-Lively District Secondary School and Chelmsford Valley District Secondary School, which are both run by the Rainbow District School Board.
-Ecole secondaire Macdonald-Cartier and Ecole secondaire Hanmer, run by Conseil scolaire public du Grand Nord de l'Ontario.