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A reprieve for Chippewa?

NNDSB staff recommendation to Board of Trustees is for refurbishment (total modernization) of West Ferris and one of either Chippewa or Widdifield, in a slight departure from the May 8 ARC recommendation
Chippewa Secondary School (2)
Chippewa Secondary School may not be NNDSB staff's preferred option for closure. Photo by Stu Campaigne.

"While this is a move in the right direction, staff have identified that this would be an interim solution for the North Bay Planning Area" - Final Staff Report from NNDSB

The futures of six North Bay public schools are now in the hands of the trustees. The consolidation of E.W. Norman, E.T. Carmichael, and W.J. Fricker into one JK-6 school on the current W.J. Fricker site seems to be a foregone conclusion.

The fate of the three high schools is another story. The ARC recommended in early May to keep West Ferris and Widdifield sites open with either new builds or refurbishments to occur. Chippewa would have been closed under that model. But, the staff report has language about a "north site" rather than the "Ski Club Road site" that may show that staff is not convinced that the ARC-recommended Widdifield location is the most feasible.

The Final Staff Report is a staff recommendation, not a school board or trustee recommendation. The report has been released as part of the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) agenda in advance of the May 23 board meeting.

From the report:

Given that a 3:2 Grade 7-12 option is the overwhelming desire of the ARC Committee, the local community and municipal partners (and next to no public support expressed for the 3:1 option during the ARC process), the Staff’s Final Recommendation would be for the Board of Trustees to accept the ARC Recommendation with the following alterations:

  • Consultation and analysis to determine appropriate north site
  • Consultation to determine the appropriate site(s) for the Special Education Programs
  • Refurbishment (total modernization) of the two 7-12 sites (rather than two new 7-12 builds) subject to Ministry of Education Capital Funding

For those preferring to keep the Chippewa site open, the phrasing "consultation and analysis to determine appropriate north site," keeps their hopes alive.

For those fighting to keep West Ferris open, there may be challenges in the near future. According to the report, " The 10-year projected enrolment data shows that enrolment is projected to continue to decline and that eventually the Near North District School Board may be required to consider one secondary school to serve all the students in the North Bay Planning Area. 

"Therefore, it would be extremely unlikely that the board would successfully secure funding for two brand new high schools when it has the capacity in existing facilities to accommodate the consolidation from another secondary school."

Trustees will only be receiving the report on May 23, not making deliberations nor decisions. A public meeting will be held June 12, at which trustees will hear feedback from stakeholders. The final decision will be made on June 27. The following factors will all be weighed by the board when reaching their decision:

  • the staff recommendations presented within the Final Staff Report
  • the ARC committee recommendations
  • all written feedback presented by the public and ARC members during the ARC process to date
  • any relevant information received prior to or from the board’s meetings with the affected municipalities
  • all feedback received between now and the June 12 public meeting

Said Trustee David Thompson, Thursday, "The trustees will begin to review all the data and feedback after the June 12 public meeting and then have discussions on what is the best for all of our students. There is no decision until the trustees have a full debate and have all of their questions answered."

In the report, staff have included language that acknowledges the objections of the community to the 3:1 7-12 option without entirely closing the door on it: "Clearly, the ARC Committee, and participating local community members were overwhelmingly and collectively opposed to the proposed 3:1 option. There was some support for the staff recommended option by those that felt that this was an opportunity to procure a new high school for the North Bay Planning Area as well as to provide a broader range of programming options for our students conducive to a 21st Century learning environment."

There are those involved in this process that believe that North Bay will go to a one school system eventually anyway and that keeping two of the three high schools open is a lateral move. The thinking is that the funding models could change and North Bay and district would miss out on a brand new build.

From the NNDSB: 

  • Stakeholders are encouraged to read the full report and feedback is welcomed.
  • Stakeholders may send their written submission to their local trustee or to Contact information for Trustees can be found online. All written input will be shared with all Trustees.
  • Anyone wishing to present their written submission directly to the Board of Trustees can do so at the June 12, 2017, public meeting at 6:30 p.m. at West Ferris Secondary School, 60 Marshall Park Drive.
  • Presenters will be required to register for the speakers' list and provide their written submission (up to two pages in length) to by noon on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Each person will be given five minutes to speak to their written submission.