School boundary changes at the French Catholic School Board in Chatham-Kent are moving ahead but they won't be taking place until September 2025, two years later than originally planned.
The boundary review at Conseil scolaire catholique Providence took place over the past few months to improve student catchment areas and transportation routes and to address flat student enrollment.
The school board said implementation date for the boundary and program changes to École élémentaire catholique Saint-Francis, École élémentaire catholique Saint-Philippe, École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Catherine, École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marie, and École secondaire catholique de Pain Court will now take effect in September 2025.
Parents at École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marie have voiced concerns several times in the past about their children coming from Sainte-Marie in Chatham and having to transition to a new school twice; once, to Sainte-Catherine in in Pain Court for Grades 7-8, and a second time to École secondaire de Pain Court in Grade 9.
The school board said the current grade six students at École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marie will transition to Sainte-Catherine for the 2023-24 school year. The current grade five students will remain at École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marie for grade six and for grade seven and would transfer to École secondaire catholique de Pain Court in September 2025 with all other grade seven and grade eight students.
Superintendent of Education Yves Mainville said meetings with the parents and the community will continue during the transition phase to engage support on the grade 7-12 program and specifically, the future vision for the grade 9-12 program for École secondaire catholique de Pain Court.
Mainville noted the school board will also work with Francobus to ensure that ride times for all approved changes are consistent with Board policy, and where possible and appropriate, the ride times can be improved to École secondaire catholique de Pain Court.
Community meetings will also take place to develop strategies to increase the utilization of vacant space at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Phillipe, École élémentaire catholique Saint-Francis, and École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Catherine and that a report be prepared for September 2025, according to the French Catholic School Board.
Mainville said the board said will now develop specific facility accommodation plans for the grade 7-8 program at École secondaire catholique de Pain Court that ensures an "identified learning environment" for these grades including classroom space, physical education, washrooms, lockers, etc. and the plans will be communicated to parents during the transition period.
The current capacity of Pain Court Catholic High School, as defined by the Ministry of Education, is 420 places but once renovations are complete, the new capacity will be 497. The projected enrolment for 2025 is 502 students, said the CK Boundary Review Committee in its follow-up report presented at the Board meeting on Monday, May 15, 2023.
The administration has reviewed the high school schedule and determined that the space occupied by grades 7-8 will not impact the space occupied by grades 9 to 12 and recommends that the space currently occupied by the satellite office be relocated and that renovations be made to accommodate grades 7 and 8.
The administration recommends that the administrative functions of the Board's satellite office attached to École secondaire catholique de Pain Court be transferred to the Centre Saint-Jean-Marie Vianney Centre.
"The schedule will be adjusted to use all other spaces in the school, separate from the new 7-8 area," the board said. "The shared spaces will include the gym and cafeteria and will be be programmed so that the classes of the two programmes are separated from each other."
The board said this approach is consistent with other 7-12 school programmes in the system. The review committee also said the space used for the 9-12 programme will require an additional prefabricated classroom for September 2025.
The original recommendation was modified to ensure that the three schools elementary schools - École élémentaire catholique Saint-Francis, École élémentaire catholique Saint-Philippe, and École élémentaire catholique Saint-Catherine remain in their communities and work to develop strategies to increase student enrolment and create community partnerships to occupy the underutilized space.
"The goal is to ensure that schools are operating effectively so that the board can redirect funds and resources to further support support for students," said the board. "The final recommendation of Option 2 of the study provides the strongest long-term capital plan for the long-term capital plan for the Providence Catholic School Board and the Chatham-Kent family of schools by ensuring (through retention) that students graduating from the elementary program continue their French Catholic education in the secondary program and emphasizes the importance and development of long-term strategies to address underutilized space in the identified schools."
Mainville said students, parents and staff will now have extra time to prepare for the transition and to visit the new grade 7-8 wing at École secondaire catholique de Pain Court prior to starting the school year in September 2025.