The Near North District School Board (NNDSB) is touting the benefits of school consolidation, saying it provides the ability to offer an increased number of programs for students at the two city schools.
Widdifield secondary closed in the spring and students enrolled in West Ferris and Chippewa Secondary Schools.
The consolidation of the three city secondary schools is now able "to offer increased specialized programming and have rejuvenated existing programs by bringing together additional resources and skilled staff," says a Board news release.
"The consolidation not only allowed for additional programs to be offered in North Bay, but also allowed for a reallocation of specialized staff from all schools to strengthen programming in the two remaining secondary schools and ultimately build a stronger learning environment for students."
According to the Board, both city schools have undergone extensive renovations to create spaces for specialized programs.
Special Education spaces include state-of-the-art, self-sufficient learning spaces where students can enhance their life skills and educational experience. New kitchens and laundry facilities, sensory rooms, accessible washrooms, and lounges are just some of the improvements.
"At West Ferris Secondary School, upgrades also include new arts and media studios, and upgrades to the sports complex. Learning spaces have been upgraded to support new specialized programs and revitalized learning opportunities. West Ferris now boasts Specialist High Skills Major Programming in Arts and Culture, Business, Engineering/Design, Environmental Education, and Manufacturing. WFSS has proudly introduced the new Near North Sports Program this year and continues to offer the long-standing STEAM program and the highly esteemed Apple Distinguished School designation," adds the release.
The Arts Nipissing program now enjoys a new home at WFSS with a larger auditorium, and newly built state of the art dance, media arts, and film studios. the programing has been enhanced by the addition of Culinary Arts; Hospitality, and Event Planning.
“The consolidation of both schools allowed for an expansion of talent. I have more sections to offer students and it allows for more diversification, and more staff who have the skillset in the classroom,” explained WFSS Principal Andy Gagne.
"At Chippewa Secondary School, enhanced learning for students includes; new aesthetics and culinary programs, a newly built wellness room, enhanced French immersion, upgraded spaces for students with exceptionalities, foods and nutrition kitchens, enhanced resources for Indigenous students, and a STEM lab for Grade 7 and 8 students."
"Expanded and new program opportunities will support the educational journey of our learners," said CSS Principal Julie Beaudoin.
"Memorabilia and resources from the former Widdifield Secondary School have been integrated throughout the West Ferris and Chippewa school communities. Student artwork, lockers, trophies, and banners are just some of the pieces integrated into each school to make students feel welcomed and not forget the legacy of the school," explains the release.
"This is exactly the result we expected and why we had to consolidate three high schools into two. Previous dwindling numbers in the three schools were a detriment to a wider range and better programming,” stated Board Chair Jay Aspin. “In effect, consolidation has actually increased enrollment.”