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By Chris Marchand
The Northwest Catholic District School Board (TNCDSB) hosted a gymnasium full of parents to pose the question, ‘would you send your child to a Catholic secondary school in Dryden?’, April 20 at St. Joseph’s school.
The meetings, staged in both Dryden and Fort Frances were a part of an information-gathering process which began last year to determine the feasibility of expanding the board’s ambitions into the realm of secondary education in the region.
In attendance at the meeting were staff and students of Kenora Catholic District School Board’s St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School who offered parents some perspective on what local Catholic secondary programming would look like and how it might evolve.
“Their first graduating class in 1987 was 16 kids,” said TNCDSB Director of Education Rick Boisvert. “Parents asked the question ‘how did you make it work?’. The really important thing is staff and making sure that every single student that goes through has what they need to pursue the path they’ve chosen. This past year they (St. Thomas Aquinas) had a graduating class of 98 and their current Grade 9 enrolment is at 135 kids.”
TNCDSB is also encouraging interested parents in Dryden to seek out a survey on the board’s website that will help the organization get a sense of the level of interest present in the community. The results, which will be collected in early May are expected to be presented at TNCDSB’s May meeting.
While Dryden’s St. Joseph’s School has seen great success in attracting elementary students to its French Immersion programming, Boisvert says it’s too early to tell whether a Catholic secondary school in Dryden would offer some continuity in French Immersion, a question he says was on the minds of parents in Dryden.
“There are a lot of knowns and a lot of unknowns,” said Boisvert. “I don’t know what it (French Immersion) would look like at a secondary school level. We don’t yet know the level of interest, so we can’t yet make that promise. We’ve committed to it at the elementary level, one of the unknowns as of yet is whether we’d commit to it at the secondary level.”