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Stratton school could close

By Ken Johnston

Editor’s Note: Due to an error from the Northwest Catholic School Board’s Fort Frances office, the Record did not receive a media release last Monday on the board’s decision to do an accommodation review of Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton. They did apologize but said it was not possible to extend the deadline for applications to the Accommodation Review Committee beyond yesterday.

With declining enrolment, just 15 students this year, costs have been running well into the red to keep the Catholic school open in Stratton.
At the January meeting of the Northwest Catholic School Board (NCSB) it was decided to do an Accommodation Review (AR) of Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton.
At that meeting Superintendent of Business, Chris Howarth, reported that, “Due to the declining enrolment the expenditures of operating the school are exceeding the revenues by $200,000.00.”
The AR process began last week with a call for people interested in sitting on the AR committee to submit names to the board by yesterday. The committee will be comprised of representation from the school council, a staff member, the school principal, a parent of a student at the school, representation from the First Nation community, a local municipality and/or a business representative, a Diocese appointed representative and the Superintendent of Education.
Board Chair Anne-Marie Fitzgerald stated that, “An Accommodation Review is an option for the Board enabling the School Board to consider program and facility approaches over the long term, as well as an opportunity to consult with our local communities on the challenges and the potential opportunities in meeting student and community needs.”
The first public meeting has been tentatively scheduled for February 20th at Our Lady of the Way School. Time is yet to be determined. Anyone interested in the process can attend and will be given an opportunity to express their views about the potential closure or the school or offer ideas to keep it open. A minimum of four public meetings will be held.
The role of the AR committee is to make every effort to come to consensus on recommendations from the community, and when consensus cannot be reached the voting process will be utilized. The Board personnel will be non-voting members.The AR committee assumes an advisory role including its recommendation to the Board. Administration will review the Accommodation Review Report and make a recommendation in a separate report to the Board of Trustees.
Our Lady of the Way School opened in 1987 and last fall celebrated its 25th anniversary. Prior to its construction there were two Catholic schools, one in Stratton and one in Pinewood. Both were closed and students moved into the current school.