Tri-County Regional School Board director of operations Steve Stoddard passes some pages to superintendent Lisa Doucet during a discussion on proposed school boundaries. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
The Tri-County Regional School Board is launching a school boundary review that proposes changes to where many students could attend elementary, junior and senior high schools beginning in September 2014.
For others, it could change where they attend high school the following September.
A public consultation meeting will be held at the Yarmouth high school on Forest Street on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. The school board will ultimately make a decision on school boundaries at a Jan. 7 meeting.
At the junior and senior high levels, the proposed boundary changes, if approved as they are now written, would see the student populations of Maple Grove and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School decrease, and the junior and senior high populations of Drumlin Heights Consolidated School increase – by how much up or down the board did not say at its Tuesday night meeting.
The proposed changes would also see more students attending Yarmouth Central and Meadowfields elementary schools.
In all, the school board says the proposed boundary changes could affect the school catchment areas of nine schools in Yarmouth town and county.
A main reason behind the need for the school boundary review is the board’s decision to close Arcadia Consolidated School, which will happen at the end of this school year. If all of these students were sent to Plymouth School, it would mean that they would then attend Drumlin School in Grades 7-12. (Plymouth is the catchment school for Drumlin.) And if that were the case, than busing has to be a consideration.
Therefore what the board is proposing is that starting in September 2014, elementary-aged students that would have attended Arcadia Consolidated School (or geographical areas that would have fallen under Arcadia School) will instead be divided up between Plymouth, Central, Meadowfields, Carleton and Drumlin schools. (The proposed geographical area changes involving Carleton’s and Drumlin’s catchments at the elementary level are not large.)
Here’s more of what is included in the proposed boundaries review:
• Students presently attending Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School would be grandfathered and permitted to stay at the school until they graduate in Grade 12, even if their community’s school catchment changes.
• Students in Grade 7 at Maple Grove this school year would still be allowed to attend Maple Grove in Grade 8, even if their community’s school catchment area changes as they would be grandfathered in.
• A student attending Grade 8 at Maple Grove this year would be required to attend Drumlin beginning in Grade 9 if Drumlin becomes the new catchment area of their community.
• Students attending Arcadia Consolidated School this school year that would start Grade 7 in September 2014, and who live in the communities of Arcadia, Melbourne, Pinkney’s Point, Pleasant Lake, Summerville, Tusket Falls and parts of Raynardton would attend Drumlin school from Grade 7-12 instead of Maple Grove and Yarmouth high school. Students in these communities would attend Plymouth school during their elementary years.
• Starting in September 2014, elementary students attending Arcadia Consolidated School this school year who live in such communities as Chebogue, Kelleys Cove and Sand Beach would attend Yarmouth Central School and then Maple Grove and Yarmouth high school.
• Starting in September 2014, elementary students attending Arcadia Consolidated School this year who live in areas such as Greenville and Brooklyn would attend Meadowfields and then go to Maple Grove and the Yarmouth high school.
At the school board’s Oct. 1 meeting it was stated that the schools that would have additional students coming into them do have the space to accommodate the extra students.
What the school board couldn’t immediately answer when asked by this newspaper is what the decline in enrolment would be annually at Maple Grove and the Yarmouth high school as a result of the proposed boundaries after the grandfather clauses expire – or what the impact of the declining enrolment would be on these schools.
Families whose children are grandfathered at Maple Grove and Yarmouth high school would have the option of moving their children to Drumlin if they wanted to because other siblings will eventually attend school there.
Transfers, of course, are an option that the board offers to families.
Asked if, at the Oct. 29 consultation meeting, the board will have information on how the proposed boundaries would affect busing, the board says it can’t have specific answers for all cases at that public consultation meeting. It was suggested that in many cases the bus times would be about the same. And there will be students for whom the bus rides may even be shorter.
But looking at a map prepared by the board, it is obvious that some students in future years would spend more time on a bus. For instance, in the impact assessment report the board prepared when it was reviewing Arcadia School, it was noted that Arcadia School was located just under five kilometres from the Yarmouth high school. Yet the proposed boundaries sees Arcadia included in a catchment area that would see them eventually go to Drumlin instead of the Yarmouth high school, because students living in Arcadia would first attend elementary school in Plymouth.
School board superintendent Lisa Doucet stresses that what the board is presenting to the public later this month are proposed school boundaries only and the public will have an opportunity for input.
“This is what we’re proposing, we’re going out to get feedback, and then we’ll come back,” she said.
The board has selected Nov. 19 as the proposed deadline to receive feedback from the public.
At a special board meeting on Dec. 12, senior staff will present their findings and recommendations to the school board.
On Jan. 7 at its monthly meeting the board will make a decision on school boundaries.
Jan. 31 is the proposed deadline for parents to communicate to their school principal their decision regarding grandfathering for their children at Maple Grove and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High Schools. If parents do not respond by this deadline the school board will plan for their children to attend the school in their new catchment area.
The school board says it would still offer bus transportation to students who are being grandfathered.