Parents of Grade 7 and 8 St. Francis de Sales students will have an opportunity to tour their child’s new school and have their questions answered tomorrow, Thursday, February 28 from 6:30-8 p.m.
The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) sent out a letter to parents via email Feb. 22, 2019 informing them that starting September 2019 Grade 7 and 8 will be moving from the Smiths Falls Catholic elementary school to St. John’s High School in Perth. The news has been received with mixed results. As of Wednesday, February 27 Sue Forbes, St. Francis de Sales principal had reached out to all but 11 families of the 85 families effected by the change.
“We’re trying to address any concerns for sure,” Forbes said.
Among the most common concerns expressed involve the busing and interaction with the high school population. Deanne Strong, principal at St. John Catholic High School assures parents that all Grade 7 and 8 students are taught in a separate wing from high school. They have their own lunch time and recess time apart from the high school system.
The February 28 open house will begin with a formal presentation by staff followed by a tour of the building and time for refreshments and to answer questions from parents. It has been nine years since the Grade 7 and 8 students in Perth made the move to the high school, and Strong says the day-to-day operations are well ironed out and ready for the Smiths Falls addition in seven months.
“They have so many opportunities”, Strong said of her future intermediate students.
Not only will students have access to a separate education wing, they will also be given access to specialty classes like music, visual arts and shop that are taught by specialist teachers at St. John.
The sudden announcement is due to the projected school population of 475 kids at St. Francis this September. The school was opened just last fall with a capacity of 423. Forbes said plans to place portables on the property would significantly reduce the school’s yard space making it impractical for recess, so the decision to move the kids over to St. John’s was made. This move will bring the population back down to 400. When asked if she felt the school will be able to meet Smiths Falls’ Catholic education needs for the next 10 years or so if the town continues to grow as it has, she replied “who knows”.
Forbes did note that last year’s $5 million arbitration decision in favour of the STEO busing company for transportation budget over runs was a factor in this decision.
“That totally changed the trajectory of what we could do this year”, Forbes said.
Both schools are moving forward with their previous plans to bring their intermediate populations together in social settings. There is a dance taking place this week. This May the high school will invite senior St. Francis students back for invention convention, a large science fair competition, as well as their annual Relay for Life and WE day presentation.