Programming concerns board
Near North short funds to have high school students spread over three schools
Jackie Young has been told to improve programming at North Bay’s three public high schools.
But Young, the Near North District School Board’s education director, also has been told there’s no money to do it.
“The challenge is we’re in a holding pattern, yet we’re still having to address programming needs,” chairman David Thompson said during a board meeting Tuesday night.
“We’ve asked Jackie to find creative ways to make this happen and obviously the teacher federations will be part of this discussion.”
After more than an hour discussing the next steps, there were more questions than answers.
Thompson went around the table asking trustees for their thoughts and advice.
Does the board move ahead with consolidation, put everything on hold or move certain programs to other schools, such as Arts Nipissing to West Ferris from Widdifield?
Trustee Michelina Beam pressed the committee to make a decision and move forward. But her plea fell on deaf ears.
“I want a clarification about what will happen to next year’s Grade 9 students,” Beam said. “Our schools need to know what the plan is.”
Beam then proceeded, visibly frustrated, to ask about Arts Nipissing students and whether Grade 9 students slated to attend Widdifield will now attend Chippewa.
“We just can’t do nothing,” she said. “Three high schools are too much. We have to do something about school consolidation.”
She asked thompson if there were any funds in the board’s accounts to proceed with consolidation.
Thompson directed the question to Liz Therrien, the board’s director of business.
Therrien told trustees they have to be careful because the board has limited accumulated surplus and faces a deficit budget.
If they want to use some of the board’s surplus, trustees better get government approval, Therrien advised.
“In the past,” she said, “the board has used accumulated surplus for one-time hits, but not ongoing expenses.”
Therrien said using any surplus funds will contribute to financial pressures, especially at a time when the board has lost its top-up funding and there’s concern electricity rates and snow-removal rates could increase.
Trustee Louise Sargent called the situation a huge concern. But it’s the board’s responsibility to ensure programming for Near North students, especially in the higher grades.
Trustee Harry Fry said the board is at a standstill, unsure when the province will provide funding for capital investments.
“We can’t saddle another board for the next four years,” he said.
Trustee Corine Green said she had hoped there would have been a better outcome and advised the committee to pause on any decision.
Thompson reminded committee members there are 15 days left before the municipal election and questioned what they want to do?
Sargent said the board has a process that needs to be followed and if funding doesn’t come, the board will have to wait.
She acknowledged it’s a Catch 22 situation.
“But if we continue to wait, students will not be getting the courses they need.”
Young is expected to return to the committee within a month with some ideas.