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By Dryden Observer Staff
The Northwest Catholic District School board is investigating the feasibility of providing Catholic Education at the secondary school level through the establishment of a Catholic secondary school in Fort Frances and Dryden.
The board currently operates six Catholic elementary schools serving the communities and surrounding areas of Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Atikokan, Fort Frances and Stratton.
A survey requesting information and interest from parents was prepared and posted on the board’s website and made available in schools; a parent information session was also held at St. Joseph’s School on April 20.
The catchment area of a Catholic secondary school in Dryden would serve the northern portion of the district and would extend to Sioux Lookout; serving the same geographic areas as St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart schools.
In Dryden 170 respondents completed the survey; 148 families identified support and 22 were opposed to the new school for Dryden.
At the provincial level, retention of Catholic students is high when the Catholic secondary school if located in the same community as the Catholic elementary school. It is also lower where a public high school is located in close proximity.
The board found a significant challenge in Dryden is the location of a new secondary school. They said the current St. Joseph’s site is not suitable and that an alternate site of sufficient size would have to be acquired which would add substantially to the cost and may make the project unfeasible. They added that ministry capital funding would be required.
Transportation services within the catchment area would be provided by the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium. It is recommended that there would be one pick up point in Sioux Lookout to keep ride times down, or 3 or 4 points along Hwy 72 so the bus could express into Dryden.
In conclusion the board said three areas requite firm responses before an informed decision is made. First, ministry approval for the establishment of a secondary school in Dryden; Second, capital funding available for a suitable site in Dryden; Third, a detailed operational plan which includes a financial analysis of the anticipated staffing costs by academic year – based on enrolment