The following statement was delivered by Trend Arlington Community Association (TACA) President James O'Grady on behalf of the TACA executive at the Public Meeting on OCDSB School Closures on October 27, 2016 at Sir Robert Borden High School.
My name is James O'Grady. I am the President of the Trend-Arlington Community Association. Trend Village and Arlington Woods are located across the street from Sir Robert High School (SRB) on the west side of Greenbank Rd.
I am here this evening to pass on feedback that we have received from members of our community concerning the proposed changes to schools in the SRB catchment area. Given the short amount of time, I am going to try and combine our residents’ feedback into an “alternative configuration” proposal that we believe:
- Will be less painful for the communities involved,
- Meets the school board's objectives,
- Provides a safer and more nurturing learning experience for our children, and
- Has fewer transitions to disturb the learning experience
First, let me say that we know the School Board is under tremendous pressure to meet its objectives. However, we think its objectives can be met without closing Leslie Park PS and without sending our 12- year olds to high school.
We are concerned that:
1) This process is going very quickly and we believe that such major decisions need to take many factors into consideration, and consider all ideas and input from the communities affected.
2) We are unsure the School Board's proposal includes all of the relevant information necessary to create a long term plan to educate the children of Trend-Arlington. Serious changes like the ones being proposed require more time for research and consultation than is being provided through this process.
For example, it is our understanding that population projections for this area of the City were not part of the decision making process that went into the creation of the School Board's proposal. This information should be a critical component of any long- term education plan.
We know our neighborhoods here in old Nepean are turning over. Seniors are moving out and young families are moving in. We also know our population is growing due to infill and new condo developments, such as the one down the street and the new condo development in Valleystream. Like the downtown core a few years ago, our communities are going through a similar transition that could result—as theirs has—in many new families setting down roots. In fact, this goes to the heart of the City of Ottawa’s Infill plan.
3) There is concern that 12 and 13 year olds are too young and immature to deal with the added peer pressure to engage in delinquent behavior that comes with the secondary school experience.
If they are to move to high school we would like to see intermediate students housed in a separate facility like they are at many Catholic and Public high schools in Ottawa and at Longfields-Davidson HS, in Barrhaven.
Since there is no plan now to build a separate facility for intermediate students at SRB, and because SRB was not designed to host Grades 7 + 8, we are concerned that the 7-12 school configuration, where the Intermediate and high school student populations mix (despite best efforts), will not meet the needs of our community.
We would like to suggest the following alternative to better spread out the student populations among the schools under the SRB umbrella so that all our schools can continue to deliver the education services our communities need.
We believe these objectives can be best achieved by:
1) Moving the MFI program from Knoxdale to Leslie Park PS. These students are transitioning to Knoxdale from another school anyway. Many live closer to Leslie Park than Knoxdale. This will increase the student population at Leslie Park to sustainable levels (75+%), while reducing the stress on Knoxdale (currently at 155%). It may also cut transportation costs, as it is more centrally located than Knoxdale to the communities our schools serve.
2) Merge Greenbank and Knoxdale PS into a J/K-8 school. Research into the best configuration for intermediate students indicates that the K-8 configuration is the most nurturing learning environment because it removes a transition from grade 6 to 7 while allowing these students to continue to mature without the extra pressures that come with the high school experience. The transition years are tough enough as it is.
There is evidence that smaller schools and fewer transitions are good for students, but so is the middle school concept of organizing and delivering developmentally appropriate programs for young adolescents. However, only the negative effect of the number of times a student transitions from one school to the next is solved by a move to K-8 schools.”
– California Department of Education
Grade 6 students from Leslie Park, Briar Green and Manordale can join Knoxdale students in Grade 7 as they do now and as is being proposed by the Board.
3) Keep SRB as a 9-12 high school. SRB wasn't designed to host grade 7 + 8 students. Their addition will take SRB beyond 100% capacity. It doesn't have the necessary infrastructure in place now to ensure the student populations remain separate. We don't want this generation of kids to be guinea pigs in a new experiment. Separate facilities are required if a 7-12 configuration is to work.
4) Keep Briar Green and Manordale as they are now.
We hope that you will seriously consider our feedback and will include our suggestions in the ‘final plan’ for the Sir Robert Borden family of schools.