This is the Actual Presentation made to the Board May 7, 2001
Good evening my name is Brian Wriker. I'm the chair of the SCC at R.A. Hutchison Public School in Whitby. On behalf of the SCC and the rest of the RAH community, I'd like to thank you for granting me this opportunity to talk about our school.
My presentation tonight is to inform the members of the committee about the exceptional learning enviroment at RAH, to suggest options which we believe may increase enrollment and to lastly, respectfully, request RAH not be placed on a future accommodation list that would involve closing the facility.
The enrollment at R. A. Hutchison Public School, a JK to grade six school, has been declining in the past few years. We have lost classes and teachers as a result of special education changes. We've lost students who have moved out of the area. And we have lost students who have chosen an alternate learning program, such as the modified calendar year at C.E. Broughton.
Our neighborhood is a mixture of retired residents as well as young families. Because there are many "starter" homes in the neighborhood there is always the potential for young families and new students to move in.
However, we are in a unique situation in that there will never be new residential growth within our school's catchment area as our
Neighborhood is bounded by a creek in the west, Number 2 Highway in the north and industrial zones to the east and south of the school.
Yet despite the declining numbers, there is strong community support for Hutchison. Activities such as Curriculum Night and Education Week Open Houses, Christmas concerts and our Fourtieth Anniversary Fun Fair have been enthusiastically attended by our school community and our area residents.
We believe the needs of the entire child are met at this facility. From their physical health to their intellectual growth. Every student from JK to grade 6 has been taught they are part of a community that cares about them, but that they also have responsibilities as a member of that community. Which, as the bottom line, is why we are here tonight.
I would briefly like to discuss four areas which we believe are key points to consider in making a decision about our school's future. These are the learning environrment, social concerns, traffic and resources.
The Learning Environment
1) Teachers know every student from JK to grade six, creating a very close knit and supportive community.
2) Staff are consistent in their teaching approach. Examples of this is the Keys to Learning initiative taught in classrooms throughout the school and the Animated Literacy Program taught by every teacher in the primary division students, teachers know siblings. Everyone looks out for one another.
3) Low Student teacher ratios enable teachers to spend more time with students. They are able to catch those students who are struggling and might slip through the cracks in a large class setting.
2 Social Concerns
1) As mentioned, RAH is a tightly knit community. Parents know other students, teachers know siblings. Everyone looks out for one another.
2) Children feel safe at the school, as there are few discipline problems. There is a sense of ownership of the school and surrounding property. And the surrounding community values and respects the school as a neighborhood.
Every child in our neighborhood is able to walk to school without crossing any major roads. The two busiest streets in our school Neighborhood sees very few vehicles during school hours. In addition, being able to walk to school safely fosters both physical fitness and independence in our children.
The school has excellent resources. The library, while small compared to newer schools, boasts computer equipment and an excellent selection of reading materials. Our school grounds are exceptional and have been used for many outdoor education programs.
The parents of children at the facility are also a tremendous resource in our school. Many freely donate their time to provide further insight into curriculum to participating in fund raising initiatives. In addition we have classroom volunteers, safe arrival callers, pediculosis checkers, library assistants, and we have parents organizing our breakfast program.
We recognize from the Durham District School Board's point of view all the elements that join to make our school unique doesn't make it cost
effective when our enrollment is low. We have however, given thought to some altemative actions to closing us that might increase our
enrollment. We recognize as well that while a higher enrollment would bring changes to our facility, we believe the climate I've just talked
about would be maintained and perhaps enhanced if we were able to increase our enrollment. We don't envision these ideas as being
something that would come at the expense of another education facility, nor do we believe it would be an added expense to the board.
1) We wondered about the possibility of turning R. A. Hutchison into a school that was fully on the modified track or a dual track school which includes the regular and modified calendars. Similar1y, we would be open to discussion regarding the possibility of having R.A.H. become a dual track English/French Immersion school.
2) Other schools that are facing crowding situations where children are already bused could be diverted to R.A. H. Rather than make us be a burden on other schools, let us help ease the burden at schools with crowding problems.
3) Let us house special education classes. We currently have four classrooms that are available for additional students or programs. We already have a Behavior Assessment Class. We could house, for example Area Learning Strategies Classes or Gifted Classes.
4) Change our school boundaries that would allow us to take residents on the periphery of our catchment area.
We recognize that there are some capital repairs facing the building in the future. And we also realize that there are operational costs for maintaining the facility.
But we ask that you consider that the building is structurally sound.
If you choose to close R.A. Hutchison as a school and continue to use the facility, operational costs would continue to some extent.
We ask that you consider that the building is on a large piece of land in a safe neighborhood. If you decided to tear the building down and build a larger facility, to ease the crowding in other schools, such as in Whitby's north end, there is plenty of room to build and grow.
We also ask that you consider busing costs as well. If we were to close and be housed at another school, Leslie McFar1ane Public School for instance, half of our neighborhood would qualify to be bused as they
are over the 1.6 km walking distance. The other half would have to cross a tremendously busy highway that has an average daily vehicular traffic count of 30,100 vehicles -2,400 of those trawling during the daily peak hour of 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
In conclusion then, there are many positive aspects about R. A. Hutchison Public School that we would welcome you to come and see. The potential is great to even further enhance our facility through increased enrollment. We ask then, that in future accommodation decisions, you consider the alternatives we've suggested rather than place us on the list as a potential school for closing.