Dear Parents, Guardians, Caregivers, Unions and Staff,
As the school year winds down, we wanted to provide you with a broad update on the Stratford Public School renovation project and vision planning. More information has been shared in a separate newsletter outlining the “transition year” end of year details. This recent newsletter (and previous editions) can be found here.
Our goal continues to be to provide a wide range of educational opportunities for our students, while balancing staff needs and our fiscal and organizational responsibilities. We have been clear that this is a sensitive, complex issue and there is not one solution that will meet the wishes of all those affected. We completely understand the personal feelings involved. Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern are both part of our rich history and there are memories and experiences to acknowledge. The options that we have been considering each require trade-offs. Our goal is to make a final decision that is in the best interest of our students, now and in the future.
Our journey to date (a brief history)
The project began in May 2018 when it was confirmed that extensive renovations to the Stratford Central building were required. The Ministry of Education approved funding provided that the number of student spaces be reduced by ~300. The Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) also committed to providing funds in order to address the building’s accessibility concerns. Throughout the summer of 2018, consultation began with staff and parents and a consultant was hired to examine the feasibility of the changes required. Based on this consultation, six options for how to configure the two Stratford high schools were proposed. Details can be found here. Criteria was developed to determine the best outcome (see below). In the fall, an online platform called thoughtexchange was used to gather further input from the community (including parents, staff and students) and the six options were more closely examined using the criteria. In addition, a plan was developed for the “transition” year (2019/2020 school year – when the Stratford Central building will be under construction). After examining the results from the thoughtexchange, consulting with staff, and the Ministry of Education, a seventh option (grades 7-9 at Stratford Central and grades 10-12 at Stratford Northwestern) was considered as it best met the criteria and took into consideration the results from thoughtexchange.
What’s happening now?
At this time, we are reviewing the details of our preferred option (#7), to ensure the criteria is met. The full list of criteria includes: creating positive, inclusive environments and maximizing outcomes to meet the needs of all student profiles, breadth of program, sense of belonging, safety, movement of ~ 300 pupil spaces, school and class organization, staff teaching more often in specialty areas, reduction in stacked classes, student and staff timetables/collective agreements, transitions, space and facilities, busing, scheduling, boundaries for schools, and budget.
Based on this criteria, option 7 is our preferred option for the following reasons: strict boundaries would not need to be enforced and enrollment numbers and capacity issues would be addressed; students would not have to travel between sites (this issue was highly criticized in the thoughtexchange results); and students would have the most course options as the widest breadth of programming would be possible due to the congregation of students. This is particularly pertinent given recent changes to secondary class sizes proposed by the Ontario government.
There have been some questions about this proposed organizational structure. Research shows that the teacher has most impact on student learning and second to that is school leadership, especially by the principal (Leithwood et al., 2004). This research is used extensively by our Ministry of Education. Therefore, we believe that our staff will make the most significant difference for students, not the organizational structure.
Transition Year (2019/2020 school year)
Details for the “transition” year have been announced and we continue to work through planning and questions that arise (transportation, parking, locker space, sports teams, etc.). Throughout this week (June 24), Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern elementary students attended Stratford Northwestern for a variety of fun skill and relationship building activities. Details have been provided in our monthly newsletter updates. An additional June edition was sent to families the week of June 17.
Construction (including asbestos abatement and demolition) began on Monday June 24.
Decision-making for our Vision Years (2020/2021 school year and beyond)
Throughout this summer, school board staff will continue to examine the details of option 7. It is anticipated that we will be able to announce our final decision later in the fall of 2019. Opportunities for feedback with staff, students, parents and community members will continue as we move forward with this project.
We understand that uncertainty can cause stress. We are optimistic that next year will bring exciting opportunities for students to experience a variety of courses, and to make new friends and connections. We are confident that it will be a positive and exciting year for our students. We will continue to fine-tune the many details throughout the summer.
We wish you a safe and happy summer! If you have any questions about this information, please contact your principal at either Stratford Central or Stratford Northwestern.
Dr. Lisa Walsh
Director of Education and
Secretary of the Board