Closing existing schools and building new ones wrong, reader saysTuesday, September 25, 2012 by: SooToday.com Staff
SooToday.com has received the following letter from a concerned reader who wrote to us earlier about school closures.
"Thanks for continuing to be the social conscience for our community and bringing awareness to the citizens on the issues that matter most," he writes. "The attached letter [below] is a response to my previous June 21 letter, as stated herein. I tried to reduce it’s length as much as possible, but as you can see, it’s all factual and important. This information has to get to the general public, as many were not part of this process or decision."
Back to School…Closures!
Now that children have settled back into school, it’s only appropriate that the parents and citizens of our community also get educated along with them.
Close those five central elementary (St. Ann’s, St. Pius, St. Bernadette, St. Theresa,and St. John) and three secondary schools (St. Mary’s, St. Basil, and Holy Angels).
Those schools are old and obsolete.
They cost too much to operate.
We have a dwindling population and declining enrollment.
No one walks to school anymore.
Who wants split classes?
Why have one teacher teach all subjects when you can have specialized teachers that can teach?
What a waste of our taxes keeping these schools open.
The above summarizes the gist of those that responded negatively to my June 21, 2012, letter "Another School Bites the Dust" and are most likely connected to the school board.
Now allow me to reiterate to the general public what was presented several times by myself and other concerned parents to the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board ARC committees, school board officials and trustees throughout the ARC processes, so that the public is well read about the arguments presented.
And for the record, it’s never too late to change the province’s direction with social media, especially if it saves tax money along with our community!
The shovel hasn’t been placed in the ground yet for the new Catholic high school, nor has the school even been tendered or designed yet.
If the province has a conscience, there’s still time to save our tax money and future.
Old and obsolete
The school board’s definition of ‘Prohibitive to Repair’ is simply an oxymoron for ‘Failure to Maintain.’
No school is prohibitive to repair.
If you take that approach, we should be rebuilding the Vatican, the Basilica of Notre Dame, the parliament buildings, and every building over 50 years-old.
We can maintain these schools for a fraction of costs compared to building new.
Just look at the Delta (formerly Holiday Inn), Holiday Inn Express (formerly Days Inn) and Comfort Suites (formerly Ramada Inn).
Sadly, politicians don’t get credit for maintaining buildings…only new ones.
In 2010, 1,471 children were enrolled within Holy Angels, St. Mary’s and St. Basils.
The proposed school capacity will be 1,450!
In 2010, 756 children were enrolled within St. Ann’s, St. Pius, St. Bernadette, and St. Theresa.
The proposed new elementary consolidated school will be 650!
The new schools can’t even accommodate the existing students!
This is like trading in the family van for a new fancy Corvette when the kids are still at home!
Whoever thinks the Sault is going to be a ghost town doesn’t understand the neighbourhood cycles, understand how attractive the Sault is to immigrants, or see new homes and subdivisions being built all over town.
We will need additional capacity in our schools within 10 to 15 years, and this doesn’t include if the closed schools get rezoned to residential.
Costs of operating the new school versus maintaining the old are comparable and negligible.
Look at the board’s operational expenses for yourself.
Now is it really worth reducing our secondary student capacity by 20 percent and elementary student capacity by almost 50 percent to achieve an assumed negligible savings?
Closer schools means less travel time, more play/study time, less costs for parents and less busing for our children.
Both the proposed secondary and revamped elementary consolidated schools will be inaccessible for students!
When approximately 20 percent of the children currently walk to their nearby schools, won’t consolidation cost taxpayers more transportation in the future?
Now factor this in with the rising cost of gas.
Location or competition
If Sir James Dunn was closed because it was within one kilometer of White Pines, isn’t it funny/weird that the proposed new Catholic high school will be built within one kilometer of the Superior Heights Public Highschool?
Talk about double standards!
Does the province that funds two school boards also encourage competition between them?
Citizens have purchased their homes with the intent of having access to nearby schools.
Their property values will invariably drop due to their closure.
Don’t they have any say with consolidation?
It took over 50 years for citizens to get adapted to the existing traffic patterns.
Building new consolidated schools will increase traffic congestion, buses, stress, and gas consumption.
Isn’t the corner of Second Line and Great Northern Road busy enough without adding another new high school nearby!?
With a reduction in secondary and elementary schools, so goes the opportunity of more children competing in sports, student council, or theatre.
It only stands that the elite will be the only ones to play, while other children that wanted to play resort to either intramurals or turning to the streets for drugs and stealing.
Maintaining our buildings creates more long-term stable maintenance employment and keeps more money in our community than building a new school, which creates short-term employment, imports labour due to deadlines, and requires greater foreign building products.
Exercise is a part of growing up and knowing your neighbourhood.
Waiting, standing, and sitting on a crowded bus for over an hour daily is dead time for these children and increases bullying.
Having a nearby school allows children the opportunity of walking/biking to school. Who heard of attention deficit disorders growing up?
Split classes (or school closures) aren’t really necessary.
When the ministry subsidizes $11,500 per student (approx.), isn’t it hard to digest that a school board can’t operate a school with an enrollment of approximately 150 children for $1.7 million!
Who exactly is getting the money…the Sunshine Club?
Maybe we should seriously look at eliminating the bureaucracy now that we have standardized testing and invest the money in the teachers and educational assistants.
Teachers with smaller classes have time to teach their children and get involved in sports and other curriculum.
With consolidation, teachers will have larger classes and less time to spend with children.
Combine this with the fact that jobs will be lost/combined, do you really want a stressed teacher teaching your child?
If you had a child who was disadvantaged or impaired, you think it’s easier to commute in a small school or a large consolidated one?
Talk to any parent of a disadvantaged child for yourself!
Having one general teacher teaching a child during the elementary years is by far a better teaching model than having several specialized teachers.
A parent needs to monitor the growth of their child and work with one teacher.
Parents at consolidated schools will have to deal with several teachers.
Health and safety
Smaller schools are safer from a health and safety perspective.
Smaller schools provide greater control over allergies and the spread of epidemics, flus, and viruses, not to mention gun and bomb alerts.
Look at how many cameras are in the existing schools versus the new consolidated schools!
Are they teaching at these schools or filming a movie?
The Pod Challenge – Imagining Sustainable Urbanism in Northern Climates held one year ago came to the conclusion that critical for the sustainable growth and revitalization of the downtown core is a sense of community, schools, and children, for which no one from the school board attended.
Many downtown businesses survive on students for business.
St. Mary’s students who are Soo Greyhounds can walk down the street to hockey practice after school.
Removing St. Mary’s from the downtown core will essentially turn the downtown into a ghetto, no thanks to our school board.
Buildings built prior to 1960 were built solid with concrete, brick, terrazzo, steel, and plaster, and have withstood the test of time.
With a some maintenance and renovations, these buildings can last for hundreds of more years.
Buildings built today with drywall, siding, and plastics will not last nearly as long and will cost more in maintenance.
Both Bawating and St. Mary’s were built to survive a World War III.
Superior Heights on the other hand?
When other countries seek to retain their sense of identity, culture, community, and history restoring buildings, we tend to demolish and rebuild new like we’re suffering a mid-life crisis.
What a shame!
These schools have been used in the evenings by community groups (i.e., sports) including voting.
Will eliminating these encourage community or voting when they make decisions like this?
Renovating an existing building is Reuse.
It doesn’t require a fifth of new/raw materials compared to building new and requires less effort.
Demolition debris inevitably goes to our limited landfill and speeds up the filling, thereby raising our tipping fees.
Now if the Province really support the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, then why are they supporting building new?
Studies and studies
School size matters.
A review of educational studies commissioned for the College Park Elementary School Community in 2007 clearly shows that there is a growing consensus that small schools not only have an academic achievement advantage but also: promote character development, emotional stability among their students, higher attendance, lower dropout rates, safer schools, collegial working environments and higher levels of job satisfaction for teachers, as well as an increased public confidence and parent satisfaction with the schools their children attend.
Most importantly, small schools improve educational outcomes. Students from small schools tend to complete more years of higher education and score higher on standardized tests.
If some locals still think that I’m the only voice against consolidation, look again.
Over 90 percent of the parents at St. Ann’s and 85 percent of the parents at St. Pius’s voted against consolidation, yet the HSCDSB got what they wanted to keep up with the public school board (aka Superior Heights and Francis H. Clergue)!
The parents were so frustrated they just walked away because it wasted their time because it was like talking to a wall.
Many concerned parents and students across the entire province argued against school closures for the above reasons.
Parents have taken their battle to their school boards, city councils, Ministry of Education, and politicians across the province to absolute no avail.
Teachers refrained from speaking up against these closure decisions because it meant speaking up against their employer and risked their job.
The provincial cards are completely stacked against the taxpayers they serve, their teachers, and their children when it comes to education.
It’s really not promising when I hear complaints from both parents and students at the new consolidated schools within our community!
Concerned parents who participated with the ARC process came to realize it was ‘highly manipulative, confrontational, ineffective and divisive, to say nothing of highly wasteful of time and money.’
When the majority of decision makers were connected to the school board (i.e., ARC committee members and trustees), doesn’t it surprise you that not even one voted to stay the status quo?
Where is the public trust throughout this whole process and where is the trust in trustee?
Isn’t there a serious conflict of interest with everyone involved here?
The only ones who gain from school consolidations are the school boards themselves.
Less schools means less work for them at the expense of everyone else mentioned above.
In closing, conscientious employees of ourprovincial government that listen to their people have been known to have a change in heart over time, lest we should hold them along with their pensions accountable for the direction we’re heading.
This decision is worth looking at one more time without the school board’s conflict of interest.
Unless someone at the provincial level takes a serious impartial review at this decision, then may I kindly suggest we take a public vote on this issue of school closures with the next provincial election and let democracy speak for itself.
After all, this is a democratic country…isn’t it!?
- Robert Bressan, 1044 North Street
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browl 9/25/2012 10:16:01 AM Report
40 years ago when my family moved to the East side of Northern Ave it was surrounded by brush and tree now they have turned it into one the busiest streets in town. And yet again they are interested in adding more bustle and confusion in my neighborhood. its really too bad
frauleinbroomhilda 9/25/2012 10:27:55 AM Report
We couldn't agree with you more Rob!!!!! Come on S.S.M., this involves the well being of our children and their children and so on. Let's step up to the plate, get involved and FIGHT! SHAME ON OUR SCHOOL BOARDS AND OUR GOVERNMENT!
55ford 9/25/2012 10:58:38 AM Report
Just goes to show you where our politicions and educational leaders minds are
GuinnessDraught 9/25/2012 11:44:04 AM Report
Well said - strong point after strong point.
Now let's hold off on the new buildings and keep our neighbourhoods intact.
charger 9/25/2012 11:53:51 AM Report
I agree with robert. Closing existing schools which have stood the test of time to build subpar new ones physically makes me sick. Put even half of what it takes to build a new school and renovate st.mary's and I'll guarantee it will outlast a new one. Whoever said change is good is an idiot. Just look at Superior Heights. Have you ever gone in there. What a depressing scene of overworked staff and the 30+ kids in detention every single day, let alone the contractors still trying to fix the mess from rushing to finish. I wish there is something that could be done to stop these school closures but they will do what they want because it's about money and status and not about what can be saved and how people feel.
cjborg 9/25/2012 11:55:04 AM Report
Well written, factual and makes a lot of sense.
When will our polititians get the message... We can't afford ongoing and wasteful spending. We don't have the money for it....
Our Province & Nation is "BROKE"............ put off all "unnessary" spending until times get better and our financial house is in order..............
We know our local Fed. and Prov. representatives mean well and are continually trying (for a change) to get all they can for our community ........... but .... enough is enough. The message should be taken back by them to their party headquarters.... prudent spending needs to be norm for all communities across our great land....... we can't continue to spend ourselves into the ground.... it's time.... we need to see more fiscally responsible decision making that will take us beyond promises and wasteful spending to get re-elected.....
It is good to see that all MP's Pensions will soon be made more fair... We can only hope that MPP's will get the same speedy treatment and that MP and MPP Salary increases can continue to be put off as well. (not likely to happen though.)
The_claw 9/25/2012 12:09:24 PM Report
there is no money to pocket if you keep the old buildings. but the new ones will feed those in the click who will sell there property for the projects. There friends the developers will over bill us for the schools. All this is just a part of raking the tax payers over the coals with no input available to the rubber stamp process of those pocketing funds on the excess charges for under-quoted projected that will need more money to be completed again at our expense.
thumbs4208 9/25/2012 1:38:28 PM Report
Well said Rob - with you 100%
well school Board the floor is yours
and Politicians your turn too !
Slick Nick 9/25/2012 1:38:49 PM Report
I totally agree Rob.
Very well done letter!
LAWL 9/25/2012 2:09:27 PM Report
Well written Rob. I do not agree with everything you wrote. I will say that I wish there were more people like yourself out there. People need to wake up and start paying attention to what these politicians and government folk are doing with OUR money.
First of all the maintenance of old schools are expensive. The thing is it does not have to be. How the school boards and city operate are just plain silly. Here is how it works...
They have a handful of contractors that do their work. Say the job is valued at $5000. They the levels up the ladder to get approval this $5000. They get an engineer to come look at the job. That engineering company puts together a set of drawings. The job goes out to tender. This handful of contractors put in their price. Lowest bidder comes in at $5000. Ok sounds good right? Well first of all the contractors in this town know how to take it the government. They will find other things wrong and charge EXTRAS. The contractor does not care about the $5000 bucks, they care about the extras they are going to get. They low ball their original price knowing that something is wrong with the drawings and get the job. After the job is started that's when they will mention the EXTRAS. This happens on EVERY job that happens in this city. Please prove me wrong. Show me a job that has not been inflated by at least 50%.
Anyways they also will spend $10000 in paperwork and approvals for that $5000 job. It just does not make sense. The whole problem with repair work is that the city and government, do not get a fair price on anything. If a flat roof that has to be replaced to a person that owns a building. They will pay $10000, when a school of the same size needs a roof to be replaced, they will pay $30000 at least.
When you have a bunch of people that are book smart with years of university under their belts try to understand how and why a roof needs to be replaced, it does not work out well. They should have a couple of tradesman running that department. I am telling you if I were in that job position, things would be changed. The costs would be reduced by at least 50%. I have been in the plumbing field for almost 15 years. I have seen first hand our city getting pillaged by contractors.
Why are we building new schools when we are in a housing bubble? The cost of building has soared in the last few years. Why wouldn't we wait until the economy slows to build these new schools? The cost would be much cheaper.Did you folks know that the costs of building anything in Sault Ste. Marie went up almost 20%in the last year? When the costs of building went down everywhere else. People need to start researching and quit relying on mainstream media to get all your information.
So this is my little rant an just the first paragragh of your story. I could go on and on. I am just fed up with everyone not paying attention to whats going on. People these days are more interested in whats going on with Survivor or America's Got Talent....
If you have the time take a minute and watch this video. This is real news, real information. You will see just how ignorant our politicians are. When your little buddy David O announces he is giving our community 1 million dollars, he is really saying I am lending you 1 million and you will pay the bank back 3 million.
These people do not care about you. At all. They have no empathy when it comes to what happens to your family. You are a statistic. If you are not in the majority, you will get nothing!
Here is the link! Take some time and learn that you are just a slave to bankers.
derek 9/25/2012 2:10:10 PM Report
My child is going to steal or turn to the streets for drugs because he wont make the football team because only elite will play beacuae of a new school...
Honestly Rob!! What are you thinking or smoking that is!!!
Lets blame the school boards for that too...at some point maybe I might have to use some parenting skills...
Next thing I know he will be mugging some old lady and it will be the school boards fault too then...
SipKing 9/25/2012 2:16:44 PM Report
Another issue is during the ARC process, it was clearly asked, is it only St Annes, St Bernadette and
St Pius X, and the answer was YES, only concern yourself with those 3 schools, but Mr Stadnyk what about all the rumours we are hearing about a 4th school being added to the mix. Again the reply was No we are dealing with 3 schools,after the ARC was complete low and behold they add the 4th school. The parents were mislead, then we see the nice flip chart with a music room, science room, dance room. Only to find out later that these will be regular classrooms. WHAT then call it like it is. Since they added a school and presented what I feel false advertising in the flip chart that the ARC should start all over because what was approved during the ARC was for 3 schools to be combined not 4
happy camper 9/25/2012 4:42:29 PM Report
just think the new football field at superior hieghts is going to cost arround 1.2 MILLION $$$$$$$
BlackHelix 9/25/2012 5:01:47 PM Report
"as you can see, it’s all factual and important..."
It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with him, (I do both in this case) this is not a "factual" letter. To call something factual, you have to actually cite a source for that information. This is a letter of opinion.
"Building new consolidated schools will increase traffic congestion, buses, stress, and gas consumption....."....With a reduction in secondary and elementary schools, so goes the opportunity of more children competing in sports, student council, or theatre...."
These are statements of OPINION. Unless you can show data to support these claims, they are not facts.
Let me be clear on one thing. This DOES'T MEAN I AGREE OR DISAGREE with the poster's article. It just means that you have to use common sense when disseminating information and when I see the term "FACTUAL", I usually want to be sure that it is.
Bill_the_Cat 9/25/2012 6:21:24 PM Report
Funding schools is a complicated matter, but is seems to come down to government funding the no. students per square foot--at least that's what I recall whilst conversing with a trustee acquaintance. I may be mistaken. Perhaps a trustee can pop his/her head in and enlighten us?
For the record, I prefer neighbourhood based schools.
Lovethenorth 9/25/2012 6:33:35 PM Report
There are so many things wrong with this letter I don't even know where to begin. I will just say the Sir James Dunn was a horrid dump that desperately needed closing, that Superior Heights is a WONDERFUL school community and my kid and all my friends kids are very happy there, and that tiny neighbourhood elementary schools are a huge disservice to children educationally, especially kids in grades 7 and 8, who have no proper science labs, tech, phys ed, music programs, sports programs, etc. It is during those years that so many youth get turned off education because all they are getting is academics, with no real hands on education. Small neighbourhood schools are simply not sustainable in today's fiscal environment. They all have to be heated, insured, cleaned, headed by a principal, etc.
And one final thing....Superior Heights is a SMALL school compared with most of North America! My high school (4 grades) had 4,000 kids. Superior Heights with 6 grades has under 1500. It is NOT a huge school!
Tom_Bom 9/25/2012 6:56:13 PM Report
I never liked the idea of lessening the amount of schools in the Soo. I mean think of the football and volleyball teams. it won't be much of a competition if there's only 3 high schools left.
The new French school they built wasn't even big enough to hold all the students who wanted to study in french! You'd think they'd learn from that mistake.
gumbyman 9/25/2012 7:59:28 PM Report
well said.....hats off
frauleinbroomhilda 9/25/2012 8:50:43 PM Report
First of all...Derek...you need to reread Rob's letter again. He has done his homework and has found alot of valuable information. Turn your ear if you want but it makes sense. Lovethenorth...do us all a favor and go back to the south. High schools are no place for 7 and 8 grades. We never had this growing up and were fine learning science and labs, and other high school programs in HIGHSCHOOL. Why change it now? Because they do it down south. Hello? We are population 75,000 and decreasing slowly. Give your head a good shake or two, maybe even three. Go back to the way things were. Let kids be kids and have a fun time learning.
sweetnsexy69er 9/26/2012 8:48:25 AM Report
My daughter was always an A student...when she hit grade 7 and I transferred her to Superior, her grades started to drop... when the new building was finnaly finished and they were transferred to the new building ment more kids and she and that was when the bullying started..her grades continued to drop as low as C's and D's..I finaly pulled her out of there and yes I tried to talk to the principal and nothing was being done..accualy one of her teaches degraded her by telling her that she is not smart enough for for the advanced classes and told me he cannot believe she was an A student..but anyways I transferred her to the neighbourhood elementary school and her grades went back up to straight A's again and now she is in grade 9 and they had changed all her classes from the low lvls to the advanced lvl..my point here is yes I agree with this edditor of the letter that was posted..less schools equals more kids in one school, equals trouble
BlackHelix 9/26/2012 2:43:44 PM Report
Maybe she was bullied because her mom goes by "sweetnsexy69er" online...
meandmy2cents 9/26/2012 10:43:10 PM Report
What gets me the most is how they are closing St. Theresa's school yet in the summer I watched them put up a fence and a sand box for the jk's. Great somewhere for them to play but under the same breath why are they spending money still on improving the school when they are closing it down. I thought they didn't want to dump anymore money into these schools .
kadynce 9/27/2012 9:11:05 AM Report
Well written and well said! Now what can we do to stop it?
bus 9/27/2012 9:48:10 AM Report
i dont agree with the consolidation of elementary schools. i must say though, holy cross is looking very nice, and it should be a good learning environment compared to the smaller school, but the smaller community schools just seem to be just that, communal, and thats what the city is going to miss. on the other hand, id hate to see st. mary's close, but it really is beyond repair. the plumbing and electrical systems in the building are unrepairable. on the third floor you have to let the water run in the water fountains in the morning in order to get good drinkable water. the bell broke at the school, and it took them 2 years to find the problem which included disecting the scool. when small problems like plumbing or electrical issues happen, it turns into a bigger problem because it almost impossible to tie into or add on to the existing system. the new school will offer more for the students in technology, athletics and the arts, it is a no brainer, and the location is good. its right up second line from blcack road, an artery for the east end, and just down second line, an artery for the west end. theres lots of lan. once those school busses get in that parkng lot, you wont even see them again. this is a good move for the school board. the school is out of the way but in the middle of the city. look at superirior heights. smack dab in the middle of commercial/residential, smc, will be just outside of this kind of area, so traffic at pine and second line should be compared to north street and second line, where superior heights is. in the middle of the city.
kadynce 9/27/2012 1:32:33 PM Report
Derek: really do you need to be that rude.