Why closing Fisher Park Grade 7 and 8 school is a bad idea

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Ottawa School Closures : One Thread

I am Summit Alternative School's alternate rep on the Elementary Planning Area 7 Community Working Group. Summit is the only Grade 7 and 8 alternative school in the Ottawa-Carleton Public Board and draws its 78 students from all over the city. It is co-located at Fisher School (Holland Avenue at the Queensway), which has about 400 students in total (Grade 7 and 8 English, Grade 7 and 8 Early French Immersion plus Special Ed and English Skills Development classes).

The problem is that Fisher has a fair amount of unused space. It currently houses Hilson Elemetary School while their new school is being built. Hilson moves out next year, however, and that will leave Fisher/Summit with about 400 empty spaces according to the Board of Education's capacity rating. This is almost one-third of the 1500 vacant spaces that the Community Working Group (CWG) for Planning Area 7 has been tasked with getting rid of through school closures.

On October 8, the CWG held its eighth bi-weekly meeting and it appears that the elementary schools in our region are only too happy to offer Fisher as a candidate for closure, divide up Fisher's 7 and 8s in the excess space in two of the elementary schools, fiddle with some projected demographic changes, get their excess capacity down to about 10 per cent of the enrollment and then call it a job well done.

The elementary schools absolutely refuse to consider any scenarios where they are closed and Fisher remains open. I am upset at the attitudes and hostility presented at the meeting. I would much rather spend energy on something better (like telling Queens Park that the people in Ottawa can run their own schools very well and butt out of our business), but as a Summit rep I have to defend the continued existence of the Fisher campus.

First of all, Fisher was built as a high school. It has large, commodious hallways and entrances with plenty of lockers for students, labs, shops, an auditorium, three gyms, a full cafeteria, a large library space, music practice rooms, a theatre space, labs. The list goes on and on. It is a wonderful facility and the kids that go there are really lucky. I object to the cavalier attitude that Grade 7 and 8s can be dumped into portables in an elementary school, where there are much smaller classrooms, next to none of the specialized space like labs, etc. and expected to survive. Who cares whether they thrive.

In addition, with the current government's intention to make the curriculum more demanding in the junior and high school years, you need specialized teachers and resources and you will only get them where you have a critical mass of students. I don't think sending 100 Grade 7 and 8s back to Gowling School where the best they can hope for is 4-5 teachers for that number of students, will offer those kids as much as they get at Fisher.

Now, could the wing of Fisher now used by Hilson, be used by another elementary school? And there are candidates - Devonshire is a decrepit elementary school north of Gladstone near Bayswater that is solely an Early French Immersion school. It has about 215 students and so could fit in easily to the space occupied by Hilson. And Devonshire's closure would get rid of 400 excess spaces.

Or, perhaps a better candidate is Elmdale School which is onlt two blocks west from Fisher. It has about 530 kids and is actually overcapacity with six portables in use. The Elmdale kids wouldn't even have to bus. They would end up taking over more of Fisher than the 7s and 8s. But that scenario would keep Fisher open.

Neither Devonshire or Elmdale parents even want to consider these options. Closing Fisher is what they want although I suspect the parents of kids in Grade 6 at those two schools would be much more interested in keeping Fisher open.

Aaargh. I am frustrated.

-- Anonymous, October 09, 1998


I'm a parent in Planning group 7 who has not been involved in the CWGs except for one meeting that I attended as an observer, and also by keeping in touch with the many people I know who are involved in this process. My children attend Broadview and D. Roy Kennedy.

What I would really like to know (and this is maybe the wrong place to ask it, but I had to choose one, didn't I?), is where are all the children going to go to school who are going to be moving into the huge Assaly development, "Central Park" on Merivale Road at the Experimental Farm? Would Fisher Park be the obvious place (as W. E. Gowling won't have room, I don't think)?

Just wondering, and wondering if this has come up as part of any of the scenarios.

Willa Egrmajer

-- Anonymous, October 19, 1998

Moderation questions? read the FAQ