News Local

High school attendance board focus

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times

In an effort to balance enrolment, the Simcoe County District School Board will undertake an attendance review of its Orillia high schools.

"It's long overdue," Orillia trustee Debra Edwards said, noting it's been at least a decade since the last review.

Trustees agreed with Edwards's call for a review at a recent meeting. Between now and March 2010, staff will gather data, hold public consultations and make a recommendation to trustees.

"It's an important process," said Area 2 superintendent of education Steve Blake, who encouraged members of the public to attend the consultations, the dates for which have yet to be determined.

Attendance reviews can lead to boundary adjustments, which can affect many students and families.

"That's why it's important to hear what the impact could be," Blake said.

A staff report in 2006 recommended an attendance review, but because an accommodation review of the high schools was upcoming, trustees decided to put the attendance review on hold, thinking the accommodation review committee's (ARC) proposals might require boundary changes anyway.

The ARC, now dissolved, did recommend the closures of two high schools and the construction of a new one, and the board has approved those recommendations. However, there's much uncertainty now about when government funding will flow for the projects.

Despite that uncertainty, an attendance review will still be useful, as it will give the board fresh information about the locations of its students, including those in high school and those in the elementary feeder schools, Edwards said.

In its research, staff will consider efficiencies in busing and walking zones, the capacities of the high schools, enrolment projections and more.

Orillia District Collegiate and Vocation Institute, Park Street Collegiate Institute and Twin Lakes Secondary School are all below capacity, Edwards noted, but numbers are significantly lower at Park Street.

The board hopes to build a new Orillia high school on the Park Street site. If attendance review changes are proposed, they will not be effective before September 2011.

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