Nina Bifolchi

Wasaga Beach Secondary School

The lack of a secondary school in Wasaga Beach has been of concern for a very long time.

In 2005 my boys were aged 6, 7 and 8. I and two other mothers started a petition and in a very short time presented over 5,300 signatures to the Simcoe County District School Board.

During my first two terms of council (2006-2014) many meetings and presentations took place between our Council, The Ministry of Education and the Simcoe County District School Board. Offers of land and other incentives were made along with an offer of a financial contribution towards shared space for such facilities as a library, over-sized gym or arena as well as providing a rationally constructed business case in support a of secondary school being built in Wasaga Beach.

Despite repeatedly hearing the same message that we simply did not have enough students, we continued to pursue a secondary school on behalf of the students of Wasaga Beach.

This current term of council was no different and the needs of our children continued to be shared.

The creation of a High School Task Force was supported by all members of council. Unfortunately some members of the committee, council and staff members went off script and shared inaccurate information. These members of the committee were unprofessional and inappropriate towards the School Board Trustees and staff to a point that discussions stopped regarding a secondary school and one town staff member was forbidden by the Director of Education from any further communication with the School Board staff except through lawyers. These actions were a huge set back to our community and the good working relationships past councils had built with the School Board.

I made a point of staying in touch with School Board representatives to ensure that in moving forward, this tarnished relationship could be mended and future talks between the Board and Town be easily re-established in a mutually professional manner. Our next Town Council will need to work in respectful collaboration with the School Board, as it is the Board’s mandate and responsibility to make requests to the Ministry of Education for new school builds.

Attempts to jump the queue, bully and/or spread deceptive information within our community will do nothing to further the needs of our students for a secondary school in Wasaga Beach.

Wasaga Beach was very fortunate in January of this year to find out we had been approved for an elementary school to be built in our community. This is very exciting as this new school will alleviate current pressures on our existing elementary schools as well as prepare for future growth in our community. The addition of this school is a stepping stone in the process which will one day contribute to a viable business plan in support of building a needed secondary school in Wasaga Beach.

Our current SCDSB Trustee Robert North shared with me some of his personal thoughts about making a Wasaga Beach Secondary School feasible in the future. There are several rules about how schools are funded and current challenges that would prevent Wasaga Beach from having a secondary school built. However, he has ideas and possible solutions worth exploring moving forward.

His vision would entail making strategic changes to CCI while making the required investments to improve the condition of the facility. Contrary to the ‘super-school’ comments that some town representatives have made to the public, Robert hoped to actually reduce the capacity of the school while making the long term investment required. CCI currently has an on the ground capacity of 1281 students. It is projected to house upwards of 1456 student by the year 2023, leading to an overcapacity of about 15%.

Robert’s thought was that when CCI is renovated, perhaps money could be saved by reducing the capacity to perhaps 900 students. This number works for programming (via availability of courses), makes the school a bit more tight-knit, and could be seen as a more efficient building.

If the CCI capacity is reduced to 900, spaces for about 500 students are needed, most of whom could be Wasaga Beach students. And if you add in about 100 students from WB that attend other schools (Stayner, Elmvale, etc.), you now have a population of about 600 students that need a facility. If you add a few more from the growth over the 2018-2023 period, you are now in the ballpark for a viable capital case to the Ministry of Education.

In Robert’s opinion and based on his experience with the board since 2003, to pursue a secondary school in Wasaga Beach without addressing CCI, is something that is not feasible. So long as there is capacity in CCI, getting a secondary school for Wasaga Beach will be incredibly challenging.

Robert is running for trustee in the Essa area in this year’s election so he will not be Wasaga Beach’s Trustee moving forward. However, I shared his thoughts here with you because I wanted to assure the residents of Wasaga Beach that the Simcoe County District School Board Trustees and Staff are thinking about Wasaga Beach and our students and are looking at ways to accommodate our needs.

I encourage you to engage Trustee Candidates running in this year’s election to be Wasaga Beach’s School Board Trustee to ensure they have a solid understanding of the funding formula for new school builds and what creative ideas they may have to ensure our students get their education in an appropriate facility.