By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It was an issue that pulled at the hearts of many residents of Oshawa. Perhaps those heavy hearts may be lightened to learn the majority of students forced to leave Oshawa Central Collegiate Institute when it closed in June 2016 are quite happy in their new schools.
In a recently released report from the Durham District School Board, a survey of 115 of the approximately 267 students who left Central CI found that 72 per cent say they have made new friends, 70 per cent feel safe in their new school and 63 per cent of respondents say they enjoy the learning.
Following a DDSB review, Central was closed last year, with information at the time focusing mostly on the school’s low enrolment numbers.
Built in 1968, the school had seen student populations decline since 2003, dropping from 944 students that year to 371 in 2013. At the time, Central CI hadn’t been close to its 834-student capacity in nearly a decade when student enrolment was at 824 in 2006. According to information at the time, Central was operating at 44 per cent utilization.
Following its closure, the surrounding schools took in the displaced students, while the DDSB implemented several measures, including transportation options to make it easier on the students.
RS McLaughlin took in the largest group with 82 students, Eastdale CVI received 40, O’Neill CVI 24 and GL Roberts 19.
According to Joyce Thomas, the principal at RS McLaughlin, the transition has been extremely smooth, and with the amount of preparation the board and staff put in, she’s not surprised things went off without at hitch.
“We are really proud of the transition that took place since the announcement of the closure of OCCI,” she says.
“I know the team that I work with, my colleagues and the administrators and the superintendents and working with the trustees that we always had the kids’ best interest at the forefront of every decision that we made.”
As part of the transition, the board attempted to link former Central teachers with the schools in which their students were going. They hosted tours, parent information nights, aided students with course selection and timetables and hired many of the former Central staffers to ensure there were familiar faces in the hallways for students.
“It’s phenomenal because there’s the familiarity in having the staff and there’s the familiarity of the kids still get to be with their peers coming across,” Thomas says.
The board has also set aside $90,000 (to be divided between the three schools) to go toward a “celebration of Oshawa Central CI.”
Thomas says many of the Central CI students have been thriving at McLaughlin, some of them even taking top proficiency in their classes by netting the top grades. And the switch may have opened doors for the students that may not have been available at their former school. According to the report, 36 new courses are now available at their new schools that wouldn’t have been an option at Central CI.
“There’s all this additional curricular and co-curricular programming that the kids are now having the opportunity to have leadership experience and exposure to,” Thomas says.
And while the students may be taking full advantage on the academic side of things, the report also indicates that 56 per cent of survey respondents said they aren’t interested in joining any clubs and 67 per cent say they don’t attend school events. With that said, the report notes these results are pretty similar to results of surveys taken before the move.