Dave Thompson, the chair of the Near North District School Board, says the Ministry of Education has put the board in a holding pattern over the future closure of Widdfield Secondary school.
Thompson says by not opening the doors for school boards to submit applications for school renovations, the board has no choice but to keep Widdfield open beyond the original closure date of next June.
The board needed money to renovate West Ferris and Chippewa so both high schools could accept the Widdifield boys and girls after this school year.
However with no government funds, those renovations can’t take place and there’s no indication how long the holding pattern will last.
Thompson says this creates a challenge for the board on what programs it can offer at all three high schools.
Thompson and the trustees are fully aware that when there aren’t enough students in a school, as is the case in North Bay, then some programs can’t be offered.
Thompson says a mother became upset with him last week because although her son wants to study computer sciences when he goes to university, he can’t get any of the pre-requisite courses in high school now because Thompson says there’s no money to offer the program.
He says that’s just one example of the board not being able to offer programs when students are spread across three high schools.
Thompson says it’s not a matter of being able to pay for the programs by using the board’s reserve fund because it’s restricted for specific uses.
He says the board has to wait until the Ministry of Education starts asking Ontario school boards to submit funding applications for school renovation projects.
But Thompson and other boards have no idea when that call will come.
In the meantime the trustees have asked education director Jackie Young and her staff to see if there are ways students from all three schools can take some courses in unconventional ways like teleconferencing.
Young has about a month to report back to trustees with suggestions that might work.