Algoma District School Board: Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) – Final Report

Algoma District School Board: Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) – Final Report

School Consolidation Experience Study (SCES)

Joan M. Green, O.Ont.

Submitted to:

Education Research and Evaluation Strategy Branch
Education Finance Branch
Ontario Ministry of Education

May 2015

This report is available in PDF format (533 KB)

Contents

The School Consolidation Experience Study (SCES)
Part I: Introduction or “Why A SCES?”
Rationale for SCES
Methodology
Description of the ADSB Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) Process
Rationale for the Establishment of the Reorganization of the Grade 7/8 programs of Five Elementary Schools into CASS
The Process of the Consultation

Part II: Themes Emerging From Analysis of Stakeholder Perspectives
a. Communication
b. Transition Planning and Implementation of Decisions
c. Program Offerings and School Culture

Part III: Lessons Learned
1. Communication
Continue:
Initiate:
Eliminate:
2. Transition Planning and Implementation
Continue:
Initiate:
Eliminate:
3. Program Offering and School Culture
Continue:
Initiate:
Eliminate:
Part IV: Constructing the Way Forward
Areas for Future Consideration:

Appendix: School Consolidation Experience Study Interview Guide



“Decisions are made through the lens of student learning so there has to be strong collaboration between those making capital and finance decisions and program planning and leadership.” (Superintendent)

Part I: Introduction or “Why A SCES?”

Elected school boards in Ontario are responsible for providing schools and facilities for their students and operating and maintaining these schools as effectively and efficiently as possible to foster student achievement and well-being.

The consolidation of existing schools is not a new phenomenon. As the student population in Ontario has changed over time, schools have opened, closed and/or consolidated to address issues such as declining enrolment in some communities and accommodation growth pressures in others.  Needless to say, decisions that necessitate change and challenge long established traditions can elicit passionate response and sometimes create charged and intense public dialogue.

While the Ministry of Education (“the Ministry”) has received feedback over the years about the pros and cons of the Accommodation Review1 (ARC) process itself, there is comparatively little information documented about how people are impacted during and after the transition process. Most importantly, there has been little focussed investigation at the provincial level into how individuals and varying stakeholder groups in a district school board are affected by the creation of a new school community through a merger of existing schools. An examination of the perspectives of participants in the process in terms of the preliminary consultations, the consolidation experience itself and the post-implementation outcomes for students' academic achievement and well-being is an essential lens through which to consider the efficacy of right-sizing a district school board in the best interests of the learners whom it serves.

The focus of this study is to document the positive and negative experiences of transition to a reorganized school in order to draw lessons learned that can form the basis of awareness of what works best. The information collected through this study will be used to enhance understanding of what contributes to a school district making the best possible use of the facilities and resources at their disposal. The non-negotiable focus of these accommodation decisions and transformations must be to foster excellent student achievement, ensure equity, enhance public confidence and address the well-being of students. It is anticipated that this study, with its exploration of what has worked well and what approaches need to be reconsidered, will inform decision-making and implementation processes in individual school districts and will support future policy development provincially.

Contents


Rationale for SCES

As a part of the long-term planning for making more efficient uses of school space, the Ministry of Education has committed to documenting the impact of school consolidation as part of its ongoing quest for improved practice and positive outcomes. For the purposes of this research project, school consolidation is defined as the closure of one or more school(s) and the subsequent amalgamation into one single school, either on an existing site, or, in an entirely newly constructed facility. In addition, for this particular case study, the accommodation of students through the reorganization of several grade seven and eight programs into one secondary school will be the focus of our attention.

To support this goal, the Ministry committed to gathering multiple perspectives on recent experiences of school consolidations/reorganizations across the province in order to describe the results of these experiences (both positive and negative).

The intent of this project is for the Ministry to supplement the data currently available by collecting information on district school boards' and stakeholders' experiences with consolidation/reorganization of schools in order to identify successes and challenges and to help define promising practices.

The overall objective of this SCES is to document the experiences and perspectives of people involved in the transition to a new school community in an existing, new or renovated facility. While the ARC process itself has generated robust discussion both in individual district school boards and provincially, there has been comparatively little information documented about how the wide range of stakeholders are impacted during and after the transition process. It is hoped that telling the stories of specific school closure, consolidation and reorganization experiences through the eyes of those most affected will shed light on the most productive processes and strategies that district school boards can employ prior to, during and after decisions have been made around school closure and consolidation.

The focus of this SCES is to determine the impact on specific stakeholders of the consolidation of the grade seven and eight programs of five (including one newly consolidated school) elementary schools into an existing secondary school, Central Algoma Secondary School. Discussions were held with specific stakeholders including students, parents, community members, school administrators, teaching and support staff, school board administration, and thought leaders from the affected schools' broader communities. The selection of this particular case study will provide a rural perspective on a re-organization of grade seven and eight programs in a secondary school in northern Ontario.

To summarize, the outcomes of this case study and its findings will:

  • Provide a description of an Ontario example of school consolidation/reorganization from multiple perspectives
  • Support Ministry of Education evaluation of the outcomes and impact of these initiatives over time
  • Identify policy issues arising from school consolidation/reorganization
  • Inform school boards on implementation of effective practices related to school consolidation initiatives.

Contents


Methodology

The project was approached using a traditional case study methodology that involved attempting to understand the school consolidation/reorganization experience through systematic gathering of empirical data. The data collection methodology is grounded in a qualitative and ethnographic framework which includes individual interviews and focus group interviews with key stakeholders, documentation (e.g. school, board and community documents), observations and site visits.

Emphasis was on ensuring that the research evidence reflected the wide range of stakeholders and that the reporting of their experience was synthesized in perspectives in an authentic manner that was inclusive of diverse stakeholders' views. This exploratory case study approach aimed at understanding what happened within a case by looking beyond descriptive features and studying the surrounding context along with the interactions of significant players.

The personal interaction with students, staff and stakeholders was invaluable in determining the real dynamics that underscored the consolidation/reorganization impacts.  While reviewing documents and analysing data were also helpful, there is no doubt that the discussions conducted with affected parties and the site visits revealed the true nature of the consolidation/reorganization experience. 

Between December 2014 and January 2015 a research team visited the Algoma District School Board and conducted approximately thirty-five interviews with various stakeholders including students, staff, parents, system leaders, trustees and community representatives. The aim of these discussions was to ascertain the views of this broad spectrum of stakeholders who were involved in the consolidation of Laird PS into Echo Bay PS and the reorganization of the grade seven and eight programs from all Central Algoma elementary schools through a relocation of these programs into Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) effective September, 2013. The elementary schools involved in this relocation of grade seven and eight programs were: Arthur Henderson PS, Echo Bay PS, Johnson-Tarbutt Central PS, Laird Central PS (now consolidated into Echo Bay PS), St. Joseph Island PS and Thessalon PS.

Discussions with various individuals and groups focused on capturing the experience of these stakeholders during the consultation and after the decision was made to restructure the grade seven and eight programs and processes and to relocate students and staff from the Central Algoma elementary schools in CASS.

Interviewees included school board administrators, teaching and non-teaching staff (teachers, guidance counsellors, principals and vice-principals) current and former supervisory officers, current trustees, current and former parents, current and former students from the involved schools as well as community and municipal representatives to learn about their experience during and after the consolidation/reorganization process. The interviews and site visits were conducted with stakeholders from five of the six elementary schools. The sixth school, Laird PS had been consolidated into Echo Bay PS so the involved staff, parents and students were consulted from the five schools which now offer K-6 programs and the secondary school, (CASS) which received the grade seven and eight staff and students from the five feeder schools in September, 2013.

During the study, questions probed stakeholder observations regarding the Board's accommodation review processes and the broad consultation process leading up to the final decisions approved by the Board which resulted in the reorganization of the Intermediate programs in Central Algoma. These data were sought in order to provide background information for the central purpose of the study which was to explore the impact of approaches to school and program consolidation/reorganization as well as student and staff transition in order to identify best practices.

All stakeholders were asked a series of open questions (see interview guide in the Appendix at the end of this case study) in order to assure validity and consistency of data generated through the fieldwork. Interviewees were also given the opportunity to elaborate on key areas of concern to them. In addition, the research team had the opportunity to visit all five elementary schools which sent grade seven and eight students to CASS and of course, CASS where a number of interviews with staff and students also took place.

The study generated data in several areas. The following three key themes emerged from the data analysis and will be considered from different stakeholder perspectives:

  • Communication
  • Transition Planning and Implementation of Decisions
  • Program Offerings and School Culture

In each of the conversations with stakeholders around their experience, individuals were asked to comment on the “lessons learned” through their experience of the relocation of grade seven and eight students to CASS. Their observations about what they would reinforce, what they would initiate and what they would discontinue if they were to be involved in the experience again were documented. This report is informed by the insights and observations of many people (students, school staff, Board officials, trustees, parents and community members) who were generous with their time and their reflections on their personal involvement in this change of student accommodation and redefinition of the context for program provision for grade seven and eight students in the Central Algoma area. The ‘Lessons Learned’ will be articulated following the same thematic areas as stated above, starting with Communication, then Transition Planning and Implementation, and finally, Program Offerings and School Culture.

The goal of this case study was to capture peoples' perspectives and stories, in order to better understand the impact on students, staff, families and communities of relocations of five elementary grade seven and eight programs into a centrally located secondary school (CASS) and the process and impact of the consolidation of one elementary school in this family of schools into one of the other existing elementary schools (Laird Central PS into Echo Bay PS). The advantage of a case study approach of this nature is that it enables the painting of a detailed and in-depth picture of a variety of peoples' viewpoints and experiences. 

During the interviews, extensive notes were taken by the research team which were then analysed for common themes. The research team made site visits to all five current elementary schools that were part of the reorganization and sent grade seven and eight students to CASS as well as conducting meetings with senior officials at the school board offices. For additional context, several sources of documentation intended for internal and external distribution were also examined. The analysis in this report is based on these multiple data sources. All identifying participant information is suppressed or modified to protect confidentiality.

Contents


Description of the ADSB Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) Process

“Long-range capital planning in our board is a priority. The plan provides us with a roadmap to follow as we work to right size our infrastructure after over a decade of decline in enrolment.” (Superintendent)

The ADSB annually engages in a review and updating of its accommodation review and capital planning documents and takes stakeholder and community views into account in terms of determining priorities and engaging with stakeholders around school consolidation, construction or closure in different areas of the Board.

The ADSB's recent capital planning dates back to 2003 when the Board undertook an assessment of all 63 schools and other facilities with the resulting profiles prepared and posted to the ADSB website. This was in compliance with the Ministry's moratorium on school closures announced in December 2003. Since 2003, the ADSB has successfully completed six school consolidations.

Each of the ARCs are composed of the chair of the school council(s) of the school(s) under review, a community member appointed by each of the school council(s) of the school(s) under review, a municipal representative or council member from each of the municipalities in which the school(s) under review are located, the principal of each of the school(s) under review, a staff member of each of the school(s) under review, a senior student from each of the school(s) under review (in the case of a secondary school), and the superintendent of education or a senior board member.

“Any time you can't retain former programs due to other changes in demography or resources the loss is blamed on consolidation.”(Principal)

The ADSB ARCs operate on a consensus basis and take into account a great deal of data on the facilities, demographics and program implications. Further, Board senior administrative staff, including  facilities staff, attend the ARC meetings to provide information and contribute to the communities' understanding of the requirements for an excellent learning and teaching environment and the contributions to optimal programming that a school closure, consolidation/reorganization and/or new school could provide.

“The demands of the global economy, the focus on improved programs were very important and sometimes during the ARC process too much attention was paid to facilities data when more time could have been spent on the academic advantages of a consolidation.” (Mayor)

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Rationale for the Establishment of the Reorganization of the Grade 7/8 programs of Five Elementary Schools into CASS

“The grade 7/8 program at CASS located in a designated part of the school would be a rotary system and would be used where educators teach in their specialist subject areas… also the entire intermediate division (grades 7-10) would be located in one building which is beneficial when planning and working on the continuum of learning… a central Algoma 7/8 program would provide students with a gradual transition into secondary school in a supervised, safe learning environment while continuing to provide opportunities for independence, growth and maturity.” (Central Algoma 7-12 Administrative Report: 8)

The Senior Administration of ADSB argued that in this increasingly diverse and globalized 21st century, higher levels of math, science and technological skills are required to prepare students for the jobs/career paths of the future. Condensing the secondary program from five years to four years (elimination of OAC/Grade 13) has led to subject content previously included in grade 9 and 10 courses being taught in grade 7 and 8. It was the view of the Board that these increased curricular demands become even more challenging when a teacher is facing a triple grade situation as all of the schools in this consultation were for their grade seven and eight students. Moving the grade 7 and 8 students to CASS allowed for more opportunities for straight grades and also provided focussed Intermediate special education support and release time.

“The best model for central Algoma due to the decline in enrolment and the fact that grade cohorts are very small is the 7 to 12 model. Socially, it is felt that there are greater benefits to being part of a larger peer group, especially in the intermediate division.” (Central Algoma 7-12 Administrative Report: 9)

The Board initiated a broadly based consultation process involving the communities of all six elementary schools in Central Algoma. A proposed organization was shared with the community at public meetings and it described what the accommodation of grade 7/8 students would look like at CASS in September 2013. The proposed program was to be organized to  include three grade 7 classes, two grade 8 classes and one combined grade 7/8 class.

It was asserted that the use of specialty classrooms and subject specific teachers help support the delivery of a quality grade 7 and 8 curriculum. It was also pointed out that this reorganized structure allows students to explore high school programming to facilitate stronger decision making for their future. With respect to specialty classrooms, CASS has many areas available for use by grade 7 and 8 students to enhance curriculum including: a 7/8 science lab, music room, art room, foods room, tech room, greenhouse, cultural room, communications technology, computer lab, dance/drama area, library, special education resource area and proposed 7/8 gymnasium.

“Make sure people know what is going on when they arrive at the school or before.  Give concrete examples of what you will be able to do at CASS about things like art options and having teachers who are specialists.” (Student)

The 7/8 program at CASS, located in a designated area of the school, is a rotary system where educators teach in their subject specialist areas. Also, the entire intermediate division (grades 7-10) is in one building which is beneficial when planning and working on the continuum of learning. Grade 7 and 8 students have their own lunch period in the cafeteria, a separate locker area, outdoor activity area (recess), access to a wireless computer network and laptop technology.

A Central Algoma 7/8 Program provides students with a gradual transition into secondary school in a supervised, safe learning environment while continuing to provide opportunities for independence, growth and maturity.

“In this school I can reach ahead in math, science and wood-working. I have more options.” (Student)

In addition, some students access grade 9 credits/accelerated learning in order to challenge their learning as well as earn credits towards their grade 12 diploma. In their grade 9 year, students can reach back to access their grade 7 and 8 teachers for counselling, support and academic advice as they continue through their intermediate grade 9 and 10 years.

“Administration recognizes that not one school model can meet the needs of all students.  ADSB currently has several models including: JK-12 schools, 7-12 schools, a grade 4-6 school, JK-8 schools, 7-12 schools and 9-12 schools.” (Central Algoma 7-12 Administrative Report: 9)

Contents


The Process of the Consultation

“Holding meetings of all school council chairs at CASS was an opportunity to look at the hard data and see the reality.  There were over twenty-five meetings as part of this process.” (Principal)

The ADSB conducted a one year consultation from March 2011 to February 2012 with the communities in Central Algoma about the concept of a 7/8 program at CASS. The following steps were part of the consultation process:

  1. Meeting with school council chairs and 4 principals to discuss information about what 7 central Algoma schools looked like currently: enrolment / program / facilities
  2. Staff meetings to discuss information about what 7 Central Algoma schools looked like currently: enrolment / program / facilities
  3. School council meetings to discuss information about what 7 central Algoma schools looked like currently: enrolment / program / facilities

“Having Superior Heights representatives, who had 7 and 8 students in their school, come to speak to the group was very helpful. This helped CASS avoid some of the hiccups experienced during the introduction of the 7 and 8 programs at Superior Heights.” (Principal)

“Discussions with the Superior Heights representatives about the grade7/8 program were helpful.” (Principal)

  1. CASS public meeting to share the Superior Heights 7-12 model and information about what 7 central Algoma schools looked like currently: enrolment/program/facilities.
  2. Local 7-12 research team assembled and visited 7-12 schools (20 parents, all communities represented)
  3. Provincial 7-12 research team visited four 7-12 schools throughout Ontario (9 parents, all communities represented)
  4. CASS public meeting  where Central Algoma  research team shared what was learned about 7-12 programs
  5. Individual community public meetings where research team, ADSB staff and Transportation Department present information and answer questions
  6. Mayors and MPP meeting where the conversation focused on developing a community vision for schooling in Central Algoma for the next 20 years
  7. Reviewing community input and brainstorming meeting with Central Algoma teachers and principals to review community input to date/start draft plans
  8. Meeting with Central Algoma school councils & 7-12 research team (over 20 parents) to provide further input on key areas of planning
  9. Parent and student invitation : Central Algoma students and parents were invited to CASS to provide feedback on key areas of planning
  10. Public meeting answering the question: “If a 7-12 program was offered at CASS what would it look like?”
  11. CASS student focus group: students provided thoughts from a secondary point of view

“The relocation of the grade 7 and 8 program to CASS resulted in a larger cohort of students with common interests and concerns and a larger group of staff who could take ownership of the cohort.” (Principal)

Contents


Part II: Themes Emerging From Analysis of Stakeholder Perspectives

“There is no doubt there is more access to programs and resources, and more opportunities in general with a larger peer group.  As well, the secondary school, CASS, provided much better resources for hands-on instruction.” (Mayor)

From the analysis of the data generated through this case study, the research team identified a number of factors that defined the experience that stakeholders had prior to, during and after the consolidation/reorganization process. These factors are classified according to three primary areas: a) communication, b) transition planning and implementation of decisions, and c) program offerings and school culture.

Contents


a.  Communication

“The principals worked as a team with the superintendents to tailor communications to the questions of parents and students in each elementary school.” (Principal)

“In some of the schools there were not negative comments because the links to CASS were very strong and there were space benefits to the sending schools.” (Principal)

The ADSB engaged in an extensive year long process to ensure that there were ample opportunities for community input and discussion around all the benefits and challenges of reorganizing the program for grade seven and eight students into a secondary school setting. The question that was explored within the Central Algoma community during this one year discussion was: “Should the Central Algoma area consider putting the grade7-8 program at Central Algoma Secondary School?” As mentioned earlier in this case study, six communities participated in the consultation. As stated in the Central Algoma Administrative Report, “during this consultation, a team of parents, staff and administrators were given an opportunity to explore 7-12 schools, two located within the ADSB and four across the province. Meetings were held in the Central Algoma communities throughout the year to provide information to various stakeholders and to gather feedback. Participants in the meetings included: school council chairs, school councils, parents, students, staff, community members and mayors. The intent of the consultation was to explore ways to provide the best possible learning environment for all of the intermediate students in Central Algoma in the face of significant and continued decline in enrolment. The implications of this decline for reduced program flexibility and limited co-curricular options and the necessity for triple grades were clearly discussed.

“All school council chairs from the elementary schools who met at CASS got the realistic, hard data and were encouraged to research and to look into 7-12 models elsewhere.” (Principal)

Once the decision was made to move the elementary school grade seven and eight programs to CASS, communication efforts were strong, timely and consistent about the process for the movement of students and staff to the new site and the predicted positive outcomes for the students' learning and social experiences. That said, some interviewed observed that extended opportunities for collaboration and exchange among the affected school communities prior to the consolidation would have been appreciated. In retrospect, some expressed the view that student leadership could have been more prominent in the communication efforts to facilitate a constructive transfer of the student cohort to CASS.

In summary, all of those interviewed, whether they were initially supportive of the concept or not, spoke to the fact that there were numerous well facilitated discussions that were highly invitational in nature and encouraged full exploration of the issues that were attendant on this change for the five elementary school communities involved.

Contents


b.  Transition Planning and Implementation of Decisions

“The research trips empowered parents and staff to have a shared responsibility.” (Superintendent)

Among the wide range of interviewees for this case study, there were many observations about the way in which the senior leadership of the Board and the Principals of the schools involved worked together to ensure that transition efforts were cohesive and as far as possible inclusive of all communities' concerns. In addition, student and parent interviewees recalled satisfaction with the social/orientation events designed for students and families to familiarize them with their new school environment. That said, they would have welcomed more such events and interactions, particularly those that brought students and staff together prior to the actual consolidation/restructuring at CASS. Stakeholders were enabled by research trips to other schools, locally and provincially, which had experienced similar transitions to a 7-12 program framework. There was a feeling in some quarters that a longer period of time to prepare for the transition might have been beneficial. Of course, that might have been said even if the transition had been delayed by some months as there is always a feeling that more time might ease difficulties in any change process.

 “The strict segregation of grade 7/8 students from the secondary school students at CASS was the result of concern and pressure from the community. The need for this segregation is easing over time.” (Teacher)

There was significant community concern in many of the elementary schools sending students to CASS about the placement of Grade 7 and 8 students in an environment with older adolescents. This resulted in quite a rigid approach to the segregation of the younger students from the older students. It is probably fair to say that many of those initial concerns have diminished and there is significant room for rethinking some of the strict separation arrangements currently still in place.

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c.  Program Offerings and School Culture

“Even more attention could have been paid to student voice as teachers and parents discussed the transition of grade 7 and 8 students to CASS.” (Principal)

The clear descriptions of the program enhancements that the restructuring would provide as a remedy to the negative impacts of declining enrolment in the elementary schools were seen as very informative and persuasive. The message regarding the jeopardy the program faced with the status quo was reinforced through the insights parents and staff gleaned on the research trips that were designed to illustrate how the 7-12 program could benefit students. These trips empowered stakeholders to make the necessary contributions to the planning for the new program and school culture as they reflected on the strengths and weaknesses that they observed elsewhere.

There were suggestions made retrospectively regarding supporting the building of school culture through joint professional development days, more reliance on the student voice, and bringing groups of students, staff and parents together as much as possible prior to the transition in order to contribute to program development and the growth of an engaging school environment.

As mentioned in the consideration of transition efforts, more continuous reassessment involving parents of the need to rigidly separate junior students from older students both academically and socially might have served to reduce the sense that many interviewed observed that the school climate was somewhat fractured along age lines. It was clear that, while the administration of CASS was mindful of this issue, ongoing anxiety among some parents keep the initial structure and “rules of engagement” between younger and older students in place.

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Part III: Lessons Learned

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of the wide range of stakeholders directly involved in the restructuring and the relocation of five elementary grade seven and eight programs into a centrally located secondary school (CASS) and the process and impact of the consolidation of one elementary school in this family of schools into one of the other existing elementary schools (Laird Central PS into Echo Bay PS).

The intent was to glean from a wide range of observations and insights the impact of such a restructuring on students and communities. It is hoped that, as with all human experience, we learn as we go. The rich commentary provided by interviewees for this study provides a window on a complex and often emotionally charged process and the subsequent changes and new directions it created for students, staff and communities. Having had the benefit of individuals' understandings and perspectives on this restructuring, it is possible to draw some conclusions from their experience and advice. The “lessons learned” that are captured here reflect the thinking and considered experience of the students , staff, administrators, parents, community members and trustees who were interviewed for this study. The advice has been synthesized according to the themes investigated in the study and is the result of the combined commentary by the range of interviewees on any given topic. The recommendations are organized under the headings of practices that should continue, strategies that could be initiated and approaches that were not seen to be helpful and should be eliminated.

The lessons learned from this school consolidation/reorganization experience study are articulated and organized according to the themes of Communication, Transition Planning and Implementation of Decisions and Program Offerings and School Culture.

Contents


1.  Communication

“Having meetings in all communities through the ARC process supported good communication.”  (Principal)

Contents


Continue:

“Central Algoma principals worked closely together and with the superintendent responsible for the reorganization to ensure that grade 7/8 teachers, parents and students had a voice.” (Principal)

The highlights of the advice received about what should be continued in the communication efforts during the program reorganization experience are as follows:

  • Principals of elementary schools communicating regularly and working together to establish a visible collaboration to help parents and students from all five schools understand the process
  • Sharing of updates on the renovations, newsletters, frequently updated information on the website
  • Initial strong and clear communication with students and parents regarding the grade seven/eight programs and the learning environment that would be offered at CASS

 “The research bus trips to explore programs and facilities in grade 7-12 schools were a great idea.” (Trustee)

  • Opportunities to speak to parents, staff and students who participated in a consolidated grade 7/8 program in secondary schools in other jurisdictions through research trips
  • Communication among stakeholders through the Central Algoma concurrent ARC process which was called “Central Algoma 7-12 Program Consultation”

“At the same time the 7-12 consultations were going on there was discussion on combining two JK-6 schools. These discussions brought school councils together.” (Principal)

The commitment to clear and timely communication during the year-long consultation on this program relocation and reconceptualization was very strong. The principals of all the affected elementary schools worked as a team and were supported in their efforts by senior board staff who encouraged and facilitated their collaboration. Those interviewed generally observed that the written sources of information, both printed and electronic, were helpful and informative and provided ongoing information in a timely way. Details about the proposed learning environment for the transferring students were shared and in fact, parents and staff reported having conversations in a number of public meetings and more informally, that helped shape some of the features of the program and the learning setting. Research trips to explore the experiences of others who had made similar changes in other jurisdictions were very instructive and allayed many of the fears about the students' social adjustment to a learning environment which included older teenagers.

“People who didn't know what to expect responded well when their concerns, big or small, were dealt with immediately.” (Principal)

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Initiate:

The highlights of the advice received about what should be initiated in the communication efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • More activities to encourage communication among school communities
  • More focus on reassuring staff, soliciting and integrating input and building relationships among staff who will be working together in the consolidated school both in the case of the consolidation of Laird into Echo Bay and particularly in the relocation of grade seven and eight students into CASS
  • Encourage more student voice and leadership in building school spirit through activities such as pep rallies
  • Requests for the Ministry to make public statements in support of ground breaking consolidation/restructuring efforts such as accommodation of intermediate students in secondary schools

“It would be helpful if the Ministry were more vocal about their intentions and expectations regarding school space as the superintendent and the board had to carry out this reorganization without overt Ministry support.” (Mayor)

Participants underlined the consistent efforts made by the Board and the school leadership teams to communicate with parents, staff, students and the broader school communities. That said, those interviewed for the study did make some suggestions on how the communication efforts could be enhanced in the future. While there were great efforts made to ensure efficient and ample communication within school communities, it would have been helpful to provide more opportunities for collaboration and communication among the various school communities affected by the program restructuring. Further, it was mentioned that students could play a more prominent role in the planning and carrying out of activities designed to bring the school communities together, such as pep rallies, school tours, and community barbeques. Several members of school and Board administration expressed the desire to have more public support from the Ministry around unique solutions to accommodation pressures.

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Eliminate:

The highlights of the advice received about what should be eliminated in the communication efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • Presenting the ARC as an exploration of choice when the outcome is predetermined by the enrolment numbers and their implications for consistent and cohesive programming

In some ARC situations, the numbers of viable options are much more expansive than was the case in this situation. Given that triple grades and continuously declining numbers were jeopardizing quality program delivery, it was apparent that some reorganizing and consolidating of programs was essential and inevitable. Providing as much clarity as possible at the beginning was highly recommended by participants in the process.

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2.  Transition Planning and Implementation

“Excellent ground work was done for the consolidation of Echo Bay and Laird and advance work on team building between kids from both schools and the parent groups resulted in a smooth transition once the decision was made.” (Principal)

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Continue:

“The increase in the number of teachers in the professional learning community at CASS made collaboration and joint planning more effective.” (Principal)

The highlights of the advice received about what should be continued in the transition planning and implementation efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • Principals of the affected elementary schools working together in visible collaboration and partnership to develop transition strategies and envision the 7-8 program at CASS
  • Consultation and the transparency of the process
  • Events at the sending schools and CASS to build relationships (e.g. “Build for the Fun of It” project, pep rallies, etc.)
  • Caring staff who could address parent and student concerns as the transition was being contemplated and implemented
  • Making sure that staff with whom the students of the sending schools are familiar go to the new setting with the students
  • Research trips to other schools with comparable situations (size, geography, EQAO scores, socioeconomic status) that had combined grades 7 and 8 with a secondary school
  • Transition activities for students, grade 6 students going into grade 7 as well as grade 8 students going into grade 9 to share “a day in the life” of students in the next grade
  • Good planning for the layout and renovations to the school to accommodate students from 7-12

“Teacher-student relationships start earlier and last throughout the high school experience.” (Teacher)

“The nationally recognized intramural teams at CASS are a big draw for incoming students and parents want their kids to become Panthers and Wolves, just as they were.” (Principal)

Those interviewed for this study were impressed by the visible collaboration efforts among the leadership teams of the affected schools in order to ensure a smooth and efficient transition for students. Several participants spoke very highly of the positive relationships cultivated between staff and students as the students acclimatized to a new environment. This was in part achieved through the organization of special as well as regular activities such as the popular “day in the life” event for students to be introduced to the realities of the next stage of their academic experience and the well-established intramural program at CASS. All of the individuals interviewed agreed that the research trips were positive and enabled them to envision and plan for the restructured school environment.

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Initiate:

The highlights of the advice received about what should be initiated in the transition and implementation efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • More activities such as skiing and other fieldtrips to bring students together before the transition both from Laird to Echo Bay and among all the grade seven and eight students from the five sending elementary schools
  • Every school/community affected by the restructuring should be left with some special distinguishing extra such as day care or a specialized program
  • Initiate a longer transition time after the decision is made to allow more time for relationship building among staff and students
  • More focussed work with the staff who would work together in a new setting to allay concerns and integrate their input in planning
  • Rely more on student leaders to organize activities such as pep rallies to create and enhance school spirit and welcome the incoming students
  • Where possible, complete building renovations prior to students and staff moving
  • Hold orientation days for incoming students sooner prior to the summer break

“Where teachers did long-range planning together they were passionate and excited about their efforts.” (Principal)

Broadly speaking, there was an appetite for more activities/events to engage student leadership more extensively to bring students together prior to the transition to the 7-12 program. Also, there was some opinion expressed that the staff would have been better prepared to provide input into the planning and implementation of the transition if there had been more opportunities to collaborate in a facilitated way. Some respondents highlighted their memories of the transition time between the decision to bring the programs together and the actual reorganization as somewhat abbreviated.

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Eliminate:

“Because the gym was late in being ready I didn't get involve in Physical Education activities right away but the dance room is great.” (Student)

The highlights of the advice received about what should be eliminated in the transition and implementation efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • Lengthy and extended meetings through the year long process that create the impression parents will have more choices than are practical when the best outcome is generally understood/ accepted
  • Strict separation of grade 7/8 students from grade 9-12 students as it made older students feel targeted and untrusted and created unnecessary tension between the two age groups
  • Moving before renovations to key areas of the facility such as the gym are complete
  • Initiating two kinds of changes simultaneously , i.e., consolidating one school into another (Laird into Echo Bay) and moving all the grade 7/8 students to CASS

“The initial fears parents had about 7/8 students travelling with 9/12 students were not long-lived; often they were travelling with their babysitters.” (Mayor)

People expressed the need for authentic information and many felt that it would have been preferable to state at the beginning of the process that there were limited options to the proposed reorganization of the grade seven and eight students from all five elementary schools into CASS. As it was, there were extensive discussions about the possibility of providing choice to the parents in some of the five schools under review and it was clear when the Board analyzed these options that offering choice of a K-8  program versus the restructuring in a 7-12 model would jeopardize the stability of numbers required to ensure program quality. In the end, this was the analysis provided to parents. Almost all of the students interviewed expressed frustration with the rigid separation of younger and older students in the reorganized setting. Both older and younger students felt their potential for collaboration and good relationships was underestimated. The Board was in a difficult position in this regard as many parents in the sending schools were deeply concerned about younger children being swept into a social environment too mature for them as a result of exposure to the senior students. Clearly, several years after the reorganization, some of those initial fears have been allayed and there now seems to be an appetite among staff and parents to revisit some of the rules that were originally believed to be essential.

Several staff members and students spoke to the program disruption caused by the delays in completing renovations, particularly in heavily used areas such as the gymnasium. Some parents and community members felt there was too much simultaneous change in the area at once and suggested that the consolidation of Laird with Echo Bay should have been completed before the consultation regarding the 7-12 concept was initiated.

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3.  Program Offering and School Culture

“There was much more opportunity for grade 7 and 8 students at CASS.” (Principal)

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Continue:

“The bus research trips were a great idea to bring people together and the discussions were colourful but respectful.” (Teacher)

The highlights of the advice received about what should be continued in the program offering and development of school culture efforts during the reorganization experience are as follows:

  • Exploration of program possibilities and options through research trips
  • Collaboration of principals regarding program planning
  • Communication through the consultation process and the ARCs about the program limitations imposed by small numbers and split grades

“Teachers were passionate and excited about working together on long-range planning to improve programming.” (Principal)

There was great appreciation among staff and parents for the opportunities that were created to allow them to consider and provide input into program planning and the nature of the school environment which would welcome the incoming grade seven and eight students into the secondary school setting. This was facilitated by the extensive teamwork that was demonstrated by the principals who approached all their work with an eye to the impact of decisions on all the school communities involved. The detailed information that was provided about the restrictions to quality programs that declining enrolment had imposed helped parents, staff and students understand the proposed restructuring.

“In the grade 7/8 program at CASS the teachers had to know all the students in the cohort and they worked together with a strong sense of ownership.” (Principal)

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Initiate:

The highlights of the advice received about what should be initiated in the program offering and development of school culture efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • Use Professional Development days to work on creating a “new school culture” when staffs are brought together in a restructured settings
  • More time with regards to staff relationships (reassuring staff, soliciting and integrating their input)
  • Leadership (vice-principals) in place sooner in the process
  • More voice for student council in building co-curricular options
  • More activities bringing students and staff together to build school culture prior to the transition

“The Grade 7/8 professional learning community is a cohesive model that allows staff to collaborate across divisions.” (Principal)

Several interviewees observed that joint professional development opportunities for the elementary and secondary teachers who came together in the new setting would have been helpful and eased program integration. It was also apparent in talking to students that they were eager to be more ‘in the lead’ in the design and delivery of social and co-curricular activities that were created to develop a strong and dynamic school culture. 

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Eliminate:

The highlights of the advice received about what should be eliminated in the program offering and development of school culture efforts during the consolidation experience are as follows:

  • Limited initial understanding by the community of Special Education programming in the new context. There was some uncertainty about the nature and scope of these programs at the time of the transition of the seven and eight programs to CASS and some felt that it took a long time to develop programs for students with exceptionalities at the intermediate level
  • As far as possible given the constraints of construction schedules and emerging unexpected issues which sometimes occur with external contractors, eliminate the negative impact on programs of facility renovations not being completed by the time transferring students arrive
  • Failing to make productive use of outside space and equipment, especially for younger students
  • Rigid separation of 7/8 students from the older students as it prevents mentoring of younger students by senior students and creates a sense of low expectations for older students in terms of social responsibility

Several staff and parents commented on the need for more focus on the provision of special education programs and supports in the preparation for and early days of the implementation of the new 7-12 structure. There were some renovation issues that impeded the immediate start-up of the full program although they were remedied in the first six months. Also, there was a concern expressed by parents and students of the grade 7/8 students that the outside space of CASS was not being used as effectively for their children's outdoor recreation as they were accustomed to in the elementary school setting. The same complaint was registered about the active use of sports equipment which was seen to be less frequent than previously or than as promised. As mentioned above, there was significant concern expressed regarding the strict separation of younger students from senior students in order to reassure what was seen as a small minority of concerned parents. In the last couple of years with more exposure to the blended setting, some of these concerns seem to be less pressing.

“Consolidation pays social dividends over time, but it was harder for parents to accept the change than for their children.” (Mayor)

“It's amazing that all the grade 7 and 8 teachers know everyone.” (Student)

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Part IV: Constructing the Way Forward

Areas for Future Consideration:

As the commentary under the Continue, Initiate and Eliminate categories in the foregoing sections of this case study suggests, there were certainly lessons learned from the integration of Central Algoma grade seven and eight programs into CASS. Many of the strategies employed to achieve this consolidation and new framework for the learning environment of the area's youngest intermediate students are worthy of emulation by other jurisdictions. Some suggestions emerged from stakeholders' reflections on the experience that could point to different or additional initiatives or strategies that could be implemented in similar contexts to improve the transitional experience and pave the way for early success of the new arrangements for the accommodation of students and programs.

Some of the observations made by those interviewed in this study addressed strategies that were seen as having been central to the approach taken to this successful consolidation and others shed light on areas where things could be initiated or discontinued to improve satisfaction with the process and its outcomes. All in all, they represent the insights offered by those who led the process (board staff and policy makers) and those stakeholders who participated in the discussions and decisions that resulted in the combination of grade seven and eight students and grades nine to twelve students in a secondary school. The following recommendations are an amalgam of the best advice that was offered about effective approaches and processes in this kind of consolidation and rearrangement of programs:

  • Initiate a broadly based consultation process such as the Central Algoma 7-12 Program Consultation, involving the communities of all elementary schools being considered for inclusion in the restructuring. Share the proposed organization with the community at public meetings and describe what the accommodation of grade 7 and 8 students will look like in the new setting.
  • Provide as much clarity as possible at the beginning of the process about options that are viable to prevent frustrating discussions about approaches that are not supportable financially or programmatically.

“There are many more extra-curricular opportunities in a secondary setting because when you only have four kids in a grade 8 class you can't offer many options in arts or sports.” (Mayor)

  • Outline the program and co-curricular learning opportunities that the new arrangement and larger student cohort will make possible in concrete terms for students and parents.
  • Offer ample time and multiple opportunities for affected students, parents and community members to raise questions and address areas of concern prior to a decision being made.
  • Facilitate a visible and working coalition and collaboration among the principals of the schools sending students from the elementary schools to a secondary setting to ensure consistent and cohesive support for students and parents before and during the transition.
  • Focus on soliciting and integrating input from support and teaching staff about transition processes and program and facility planning for the consolidated and reorganized school and on building relationships among staff who will be working together in the consolidated school.

“A facilitated staffing process where teachers who wanted to come and be favorably considered was largely successful.” (Principal)

  • As much as possible, adopt a flexible staffing model which allows a substantial number of the teachers with whom the intermediate students are familiar to move with them.
  • Use Professional Development days to work on creating a “new school culture” when staffs are brought together in a restructured setting.

“The day in the life of a grade 7 student was a great experience and I would have liked it to have happened earlier.” (Student)

  • Design transition activities for students such as  grade 6 students going into grade 7 as well as grade 8 students going into grade 9 coming together to share “a day in the life” of students in the next grade.
  • Facilitate activities such as fieldtrips to bring students together before the transition from all the grade seven and eight students from the five sending elementary schools as well as welcoming and familiarizing activities for incoming students and their parents at the receiving school.
  • Encourage the input of student leaders in the program planning, co-curricular activity choices and suggestions for the learning environment to ensure student engagement and positive school spirit once the students and staff have been brought together in their new learning environment.
  • Develop ways for senior students to be involved in mentoring and supporting younger students while ensuring an age appropriate environment for grade seven/eight students.
  • Arrange multiple and varied opportunities for students to visit the new setting/secondary school prior to enrolment in the new program.
  • Facilitate opportunities for parents and staff to visit other schools where this kind of program reorganization has been successfully implemented by creating local and provincial research teams.
  • Have the research teams share their learning and their observations about the schools they visited with each of the affected school councils and school staffs.
  • Ensure, where possible, that every school/community affected by the restructuring is left with some special distinguishing “extra”, for example, a day care or a specialized program.
  • Provide regular sharing of updates on the renovations and preparations for the transition through newsletters, school council meetings and frequently updated information on the school and school board websites.
  • Where possible, allow a substantial transition time after the decision is made to afford more time for relationship building among staff and students.
  • Arrange for the participation of Mayors and MPPs in public meetings to contribute to the conversation focussed on developing a community vision for schooling in the area for the next 20 years.
  • Seek and publicize public commentary from provincial and municipal elected officials and community leaders in support of ground breaking, program enhancing consolidation/restructuring efforts, such as accommodation of intermediate students in secondary schools.

“It was helpful to have trustees as part of the team.” (Principal)

The work of the research team was greatly supported by the frank and reflective conversations that were held with Board staff, principals, school staff, parents and School Council members, students, trustees, municipal leaders, and other community representatives.

“The travel time for students is a rural reality, and while it was an issue during the discussion around consolidation there were no real long-term complaints.” (Mayor)

Generally, the discussions held with stakeholders in this process centred on their experience with the consultation and the transition process as well as the program, co-curricular and social contexts that the establishment of a 7-12 program in CASS created. The dialogue with parents and community members around this new structure focussed on three themes: first, academic program, second, social/emotional environments and thirdly, concern about the future of small community schools if grade seven and eight students were removed from the elementary schools. Initially, when the decision was being made there was also concern about the travel time of some of the students but those issues seem to have been resolved early on and were not raised as a significant factor in the research for this case study.

Regarding the academic program, at the time of the consolidation/reorganization, the Algoma District School Board argued that moving the grade 7-8 students to CASS would allow for more opportunities for specialized teaching and special education support as well as healthier cohorts for the provision of programs in single grades rather than the triple grade situation in the elementary schools in Central Algoma which prevailed at the time of the reorganization. This more supportive learning environment was deemed to be necessary as students prepared for the secondary school curriculum and the rigours of learning and growing in “this increasingly diverse and globalized 21st Century, where higher levels of math, science and technological skills are required to prepare students for the jobs/career paths of the future” (page 7, Central Algoma 7-12 Administrative Report).

“There's always resistance to letting go of legacies but when we engaged with the students they were very positive and influenced their parents' viewpoints.” (Trustee)

Even at the beginning of the process, especially after the field trips to other grade 7-12 programs, there seemed to be little resistance to the idea that program offerings would be enhanced as a result of this reorganization. Most of the concern came from other areas regarding the social and cultural context and the future of the elementary schools without the senior grade seven and eight students.

It seems fair to say that most of the interviewees for this case study who had been initially concerned about the social context for grade seven and eight students in a secondary school environment were now satisfied that the students were in a safe and nurturing environment in CASS. The efforts to provide a customized learning context with consistent staff supervision and support as well as a separate physical area for the grade seven and eight program offered a comfortable and secure environment where the younger students could develop and interact with age-a-like peers while benefiting from the many curricular and co-curricular advantages that CASS provides.

“There was concern about the loss of student leadership in the elementary schools that resulted from the moving of the grade 7 and 8 students to CASS.” (Principal)

There was some concern expressed by some parents and community members that the elementary schools missed the student leadership previously provided by the grade seven and eight students who had moved to CASS. While grade six students seemed, a few years after the reorganization, to have assumed some of the leadership roles in the schools, no doubt, in the minds of some, having the grade seven and eight students in the school was a positive component that they regretted losing.

The suggestions or ‘lessons learned’ from this case-study have been described in the body of this report and are captured in a summary way in the twenty points listed under the heading ‘Constructing the Way Forward’. It is hoped that an outcome of this study will be that district school boards engaged in this kind of process will be informed by the exploration of this particular experience and the insights it elicited about how to go about the consultation, planning and transition of grade seven and eight programs into a secondary school. There is no doubt that the senior elementary students of Central Algoma have been the beneficiaries of the enhanced learning experience this school/program reorganization has created.

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Appendix: School Consolidation Experience Study Interview Guide

School Board Perspective (Questions for administrators, teaching and non-teaching personnel)

Board Accommodation Review Policy

  1. When was it drafted?
  2. Who was involved in the drafting of the policy?
  3. How did Ministry guidelines inform the development of the Board's Accommodation Review Policy?
  4. Did the Board consult with other school boards regarding their policies or processes when drafting your policy or initiating an ARC process?
  5. How and at what point were trustees involved in the development of the Board's ARP?
  6. Has the Board's accommodation review policy been revised/modified as a result of experience or input?
  7. How was the Board's ARP shared with staff, parents and other stakeholders?

Decision-Making Process Regarding Establishment of ARC

  1. What are the key factors that led to the decision to establish an Accommodation Review Committee? Enrolment? Program limitations? Financial viability? Facility conditions? Equity of access and opportunity for students and communities? (What were the lens through which the decision to establish an ARC was made?)
  2. Was an analysis of potential impacts of the possible closure or consolidation of the school(s) undertaken prior to the establishment of the ARC? If so, at what point and how was this analysis shared with stakeholders (trustees, parents, students, staff and community members)
  3. To what extent is an analysis of the accommodation needs of the Board included in the long range planning and budget considerations of the trustees? In other words, are potential school closures/consolidations within the school board part of an overall multiyear strategic plan for increased school efficiencies and improved management of schools?
  4. How were members of the ARC chosen? How was the opportunity to participate as an ARC member made public?

Process of the ARC

  1. Communication: What was the communication plan to inform the public and specific stakeholders about the process and timelines of the ARC?
  2. Composition of the ARC & Roles of members:
    1. How are the procedural rules of the ARC communicated to ARC members, stakeholders and the general public?
    2. Who Chaired the ARC?
    3. What was the role of Trustees on the ARC?
    4. What was the role of Principals and Vice-Principals on the ARC (were they voting members?)
    5. How was the role of staff (teaching and non-teaching) on the ARC defined?
    6. Were there specific school board personnel assigned to liaise and support students, teachers or parents, community members and other stakeholders who had concerns or questions regarding the ARC?
  3. ARC Options: How are alternative solutions or proposals to address student accommodation issues developed and discussed during the ARC process?
  4. Decision-making: What was the process for achieving consensus within the ARC?
  5. Feedback During ARC Process:
    1. Were there mechanisms in place for addressing stakeholder questions, concerns and suggestions during the ARC process?
    2. How were these mechanisms made public?
    3. How were ongoing questions from ARC members dealt with during the process of the ARC?
  6. Key question:  Did the ARC develop a transition plan to accompany its recommendations to address how students would move to new accommodations or arrangements? If not, did the Board do so and make it public at the time of the Board decision?

Assessment of the Impact of the Accommodation Decision:

  1. In terms of the ARC's recommendations and the Board's ultimate decision, does the school Board document the positive and negative outcomes of the decision from the perspective of students, staff, parents and other stakeholders in order to inform future ARCs?

  2. Key questions: Impact on specific populations and/or groups of students (for example, Special Education, Aboriginal, At Risk students)
  1. How did the consolidation / joint use impact course offerings / programming in relation to student needs? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  2. How did the consolidation or joint use impact students' in-school extracurricular activities? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  3. How did the consolidation or joint use impact students' community-based extracurricular activities? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  4. How did the consolidation or joint use impact student travel times? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  5. How did the consolidation or joint use impact student well-being (physical health, mental health, school safety)? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  6. How did the consolidation or joint use impact childcare and early years programs (convenience, options available)? Did your experience differ from what you thought?2
  7. How did the consolidation or joint use impact support-student and teacher-student relationships? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  8. How did the consolidation or joint use impact parent, guardian and caregiver engagement / involvement in their children's learning? Did your experience differ from what you thought?
  1. Has an action plan been developed to minimize/mitigate any negative outcomes and maximize successful strategies for future accommodation decisions?
  2. What were the lessons learned that could be applied to future ARCs and implementation of Board accommodation decisions?
    1. Stop – Continue – Start Exercise
    2. i. What would you recommend not be done in the future?
      ii. What do you think would be essential to continue doing in the future?
      iii. What would you suggest should be included in the process that was not part of this experience?

Student Perspective (Questions for students)

  1. How and at what point was the school consolidation communicated to you? 
  2. Who communicated the information on the consolidation to you?
  3. How did you prepare/how were you asked or expected to prepare for the school consolidation?
  4. Do you feel that you were well prepared for the school consolidation?
  5. Did the consolidation impact the courses and programs offered to you? (more or fewer, different courses or programs) How?
  6. Did the consolidation impact your travel time to and from school and your means of transportation to/from school? How?
  7. Did the consolidation impact the extra-curricular activities offered at your school? How?
  8. Did the consolidation impact your participation in extra-curricular activities outside of your school? How?
  9. Did the consolidation impact your relationships with your teachers and other school or board staff? How?
  10. Did the consolidation impact your relationships with your friends and peers? How?
  11. Would you describe your overall experience of the school consolidation as positive or negative? Why?
  12. Did the school consolidation impact your future plans (postsecondary) plans in any way?
  13. What do you feel could have been done differently, if anything? Why? How?
    1. Stop – Continue – Start Exercise
    2. i. What would you recommend not be done in the future?
      ii. What do you think would be essential to continue doing in the future?
      iii. What would you suggest should be included in the process that was not part of this experience?

Parent Perspective (Questions for parents)

  1. How and at what point was the school consolidation communicated to you?
  2. Who communicated information on the consolidation to you?
  3. How did you prepare/how were you asked or expected to prepare for the school consolidation?
  4. Do you feel that you were well prepared for the school consolidation?
  5. Did the consolidation impact the academic courses and programs offered to your children? (more or fewer, different courses or programs) How?
  6. Did the consolidation impact your child's transportation to/from school? (means of transportation/travel time) How?
  7. Did the consolidation impact the extra-curricular activities offered at your child's school and your child's participation in extra-curricular activities? (nature of activities, variety and number of activities) How?
  8. Did the consolidation impact your child's participation in extra-curricular activities outside of the school? How?
  9. Did the consolidation impact your relationships with your child's teachers and other school or board staff? How?
  10. Did the consolidation impact your involvement and/or engagement in your child's school? How?
  11. Would you describe your overall experience of the school consolidation as positive or negative? Why?
  12. What do you feel could have been done differently, if anything? Why? How?
    1. Stop – Continue – Start Exercise
    2. i. What would you recommend not be done in the future?
      ii. What do you think would be essential to continue doing in the future?
      iii. What would you suggest should be included in the process that was not part of this experience?

Community Stakeholder Perspective (Questions for community stakeholders)

  1. How and at what point was the school consolidation communicated to you?
  2. Who communicated information on the consolidation to you?
  3. Were there any expectations of you as a community stakeholder in the school consolidation process?
  4. Do you feel that you were well prepared for the school consolidation?
  5. Did the school consolidation impact your relationship with the school administration and/or school community (staff, students, parents)? How?
  6. Did the school consolidation impact your participation, access and/or engagement in the school and/or school programs?
  7. Would you describe your overall experience of the school consolidation as positive or negative? Why?
  8. What do you feel could have been done differently, if anything? Why? How?
    1. Stop – Continue – Start Exercise
    2. i. What would you recommend not be done in the future?
      ii. What do you think would be essential to continue doing in the future?
      iii. What would you suggest should be included in the process that was not part of this experience?

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1 The Ministry has reviewed the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines (PARG) through a separate process. The revised Guidelines were released in Spring 2015.

2 This question was omitted from the interviews as none of the schools involved in this SCES had childcare facilities or early years programs.