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Carihi students leave their mark on online poll

The school district’s online school reconfiguration poll may have some people scratching their heads lately.

But don’t be fooled into thinking parents have had a sudden change of heart as to how they would like to see schools structured.

A spike in votes for a school configuration model that before had only a handful of votes is the work of Carihi students.

“Out of the blue a new option is now leading the poll,” said Jim Ansell, assistant superintendent of schools and administrator of the poll and online school reconfiguration forum. “A very bright young lady from Carihi out of the Writing 11 class did an interview with her principal (Tom Demeo) and with myself, then went back to her class and made them aware of the issue.”

En masse the class went online and sent text messages out to all of their friends to urge them to also get online and all vote for the same option – one Grade 11 and 12 school, two Grades 8 to 10 middle schools and kindergarten to Grade 7 elementary schools.

“The Grade 11’s all thought it would be very neat for everyone to graduate out of the same school,” said Ansell.

The new scenario, which previously had hardly any votes, now leads all five scenarios with 143 votes. Unfortunately, the poll allows one user to vote as many times as they would like so it’s not clear how many individuals actually voted.

“Unfortunately, kids were willing to say on the message board that they had voted 25 times,” joked Ansell. “But I’m really pleased the students have shown an interest.”

With less than a month until the board of education makes a decision at their Feb. 1 board meeting as to what scenario to adopt, if any, Ansell says there are two scenarios that have emerged as “the strongest contenders.”

Those include a model involving two Grade 9 to 12 high schools, two Grade 6 to 8 middle schools and kindergarten to Grade 5 elementary schools as well as a scenario which would see the district with two Grade 9 to 12 high schools, two Grade 7 and 8 middle schools and kindergarten to Grade 6 elementary schools.

Ansell stresses that although those two options may be leading the poll, it does not mean either one will be the winner in the end.

“They are just five or six narrowed down options. It’s just an indicator, not a decision making tool. The board will make the final decision of course,” said Ansell.

Preferably Ansell said he would like to whittle down the options to just two, possibly three, to present to the board next month but it is a big task sifting through all the feedback he has received from the public and the 500 people who work for the school district.

School District 72 has committed to look at reconfiguring schools to remedy the projected decrease in high school enrolment each year until 2021 when both Carihi and Timberline are projected to each have fewer than 600 students.

From the beginning of the process, the school district has worked to ensure the public is engaged and had the opportunity to add their voice to any decision that will be made.

Ansell said the process has been well advertised with every school sending home information in their school newsletter and annoucements in the local media of all three open houses that took place between September and December.

“I feel like we’ve had a really good process,” said Ansell. “Parents should have plenty of information.”

As to when the new changes could take effect should the board vote to reconfigure the schools, that decision will also be made at the Feb. 1 board meeting, 7:30 p.m. at the School District 72 office on Pinecrest Road.

Ansell said there are some parents who would like the changes to take effect quickly, as to help the students readjust as soon as possible and then there are others who are adamant that the district take its time to consider all the options and not jump into something too quickly.

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