The parents of South Plympton and Wyoming Public Schools see the wisdom of merging the two schools, but how it is done is still a big concern.
The Lambton-Kent District School Board has a lot of extra classroom space in the region – space that the province will no longer provide cash to maintain. So it’s started a six-year plan to close 15 schools across the district. One of the first community’s affected is Plympton-Wyoming.
The board is proposing to merge the two Wyoming area elementary schools in the Wyoming Public building. They already share a principal.
About 25 parents came to Wyoming Public School Monday as the board’s Accommodation Review Committee met to talk about the proposal. Jodi Campbell represents the parents of Wyoming Public School on the committee.
“Everybody feels we’re already one school,” she says. “I think we were lucky to have two buildings but those days are over.”
Crystal Hordyk, the parent representative of South Plympton agrees. “A majority of South Plympton parents agree it has to happen.”
But both communities are concerned about the speed of the transition and how it will be done. The board wants to close South Plympton at the end of this school year and move the children who are in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 to Wyoming while the building is being renovated.
Hordyk doesn’t like that idea at all. “South Plympton parents are worried…about their three-year-old walking into a construction zone,” she says pointing out it is not unusual to find asbestos in old buildings once renovations begin.
Both Hordyk and Campbell urged the board to consider moving all the students to one school for a year while the renovations are underway in the other – similar to what is being proposed in the SCITS/St. Clair High School merger in Sarnia. “We need a better temporary plan in place to keep students and teachers safe,” says Hordyk.
The committee agreed to get the costs of a move for its next meeting March 23.
The board officials will also look at the pros and cons of consolidating the two student bodies not only at Wyoming Public but also at South Plympton.
Hordyk says South Plympton has a larger schoolyard with room to expand if necessary in the future, a safe area to drop students off, more washroom facilities and wider hallways than the Wyoming building.
Campbell adds an expansion of the Wyoming gym would cut into the green space on the already small yard. And she says the Wyoming building and land might be easier to sell for redevelopment. “South Plympton is in the middle of agricultural land – it’s not going to sell for as much.”
The board has agreed to get the financial numbers for closing Wyoming instead of South Plympton as well.
Both parent groups do recognize closing the village school could have drawbacks, including to main street businesses where older students go during the lunch hour. “It’s a valid source of business for them,” says Campbell.
And during the meeting the parents urged the board to be better about talking to the parents about what is actually going on. Hordyk says even though the move has been on the table since December, parents in South Plympton were only given information about when the meetings are and where to find information about the process Monday.
Board officials admitted they had not done as good of a job as they could but Gary Giardari added, “no matter what we do as a school board, we know it’s hard to hit everyone.”
The accommodation review committee meets again March 23 at South Plympton for a public meeting. Parents will also be able to “walk through” the buildings March 9th (Wyoming) and 10th (Plympton) as part of the process.