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Trustee says new build would have eliminated use of ‘obsolete’ schools in North Bay

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Widdifield Secondary School will close, pending provincial approval of funding, as early as two years from now.

Near North District School Board Trustees voted 5-3 in favour of a motion that will see the number of public high schools in North Bay shrink from three to two at a board meeting, Tuesday. The plan calls for schools at the current West Ferris and Chippewa sites to be modernized, renamed, and rebranded.

One trustee, Alan Bottomley, clearly exasperated by the process, expressed that he thinks what is being perceived as a win for the students is anything but. “We should have a brand new school in North Bay,” said Bottomley, “People don’t realize how obsolete our buildings are.”

Chair David Thompson said at the meeting that all timelines for construction on the two remaining sites and programming decisions will be determined by Jackie Young, the NNDSB’s Director of Education. Thompson also adds that a typical time frame for previous school closures, builds, and amalgamations have been approximately 19 months.

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Many of the trustees, even those who spoke in favour of the three-to-two option, acknowledge that it may not be long before they are making a decision on going from two-to-one secondary schools if the demographic trends of fewer students do not shift dramatically.

One of the questions raised at the meeting was how the board arrived at closing Widdifield instead of Chippewa (which was the recommendation of the ARC).

Trustee Harold Fry says that the Chippewa site is most appropriate for expansion of the gymnasium and theatre as the current situation of those areas is on the outer walls of the building, whereas they are internal at Widdifield. Fry also mentioned difficulty with run-off as a topographical issue with the Widdifield site.

Trustee Corine Green, whose bio lists her as a lifelong native of Parry Sound, voted in favour of the three-to-two option, saying that the community had spoken [about the desire to only close one school] and that the future cannot be predicted. Green added that the move would leave “a lot of potential for future planning.”

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