Letters to Parents
November 28, 2019
Dear Stratford and area families,
At the AMDSB Board of Trustees meeting on November 26, the Board unanimously agreed to move forward with the following configuration for Stratford Central and Northwestern beginning in September 2020:
- Grades 7 and 8 students from the City of Stratford will attend school at the Stratford Central location; and
- Grades 9 to 12 students from the City of Stratford and surrounding area will attend school at the Stratford Northwestern location.
They also agreed to place a two-year moratorium on moving grade 7 and 8 students from the rural feeder schools to the former Stratford Central site. This decision came after two years of document review, expert and stakeholder consultation and countless hours of meetings and discussions. The Trustees and Senior Staff have done an extensive review of over seven options considered over the past year, as well as the final option that was selected. They used the following criteria from the outset to evaluate each option:
- Offer breadth of programming
- Foster a sense of belonging
- Meet the needs of all student profiles
- Support student safety
- Operational considerations: school and class organization, teaching assignments, timetables, collective agreements, transitions, busing, scheduling, boundaries for schools, and budget.
Senior Staff and Trustees eliminated all options except two for a number of operational and programming reasons. They considered two final options (Option A and Option B), and these two options were consulted on over the past month. All information received throughout the fulsome consultation helped Trustees to arrive at the final decision last night.
The final decision is a huge change for Stratford and area families and students and we recognize that transition can be difficult. We will work together during this transition and make every effort to ensure students and families feel supported. Making a decision was only the first step - the process forward is just as important as we endeavour to build a positive culture and a strong sense of belonging for all. We will continue to do our very best to make this a positive experience for students and families.
A transition process will begin in the new year and will involve a committee of students, families, staff and community members. The process involves a celebration of the rich histories and successes of the two schools and the creation of a new identity.
I want to personally thank our school communities for their engagement in this process, their feedback and thoughtful questions, and their understanding of the Board’s mandate to balance the many factors involved in this complex decision. Students and staff have had to relocate during this year of transition and are now embarking on the permanent change of a new school environment.
Change can be challenging but we believe our students are resilient and we look forward to building something positive in these new school environments. We invite you to join us, as we move forward together to provide the very best experience for our students now and in the future!
Dr. Lisa Walsh
Director of Education and Secretary of the Board
June 27, 2019
Dear Parents, Guardians, Caregivers, Unions and Staff,
As the school year winds down, we wanted to provide you with a broad update on the Stratford Public School renovation project and vision planning. More information has been shared in a separate newsletter outlining the “transition year” end of year details. This recent newsletter (and previous editions) can be found here.
Our goal continues to be to provide a wide range of educational opportunities for our students, while balancing staff needs and our fiscal and organizational responsibilities. We have been clear that this is a sensitive, complex issue and there is not one solution that will meet the wishes of all those affected. We completely understand the personal feelings involved. Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern are both part of our rich history and there are memories and experiences to acknowledge. The options that we have been considering each require trade-offs. Our goal is to make a final decision that is in the best interest of our students, now and in the future.
Our journey to date (a brief history)
The project began in May 2018 when it was confirmed that extensive renovations to the Stratford Central building were required. The Ministry of Education approved funding provided that the number of student spaces be reduced by ~300. The Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) also committed to providing funds in order to address the building’s accessibility concerns. Throughout the summer of 2018, consultation began with staff and parents and a consultant was hired to examine the feasibility of the changes required. Based on this consultation, six options for how to configure the two Stratford high schools were proposed. Details can be found here. Criteria was developed to determine the best outcome (see below). In the fall, an online platform called thoughtexchange was used to gather further input from the community (including parents, staff and students) and the six options were more closely examined using the criteria. In addition, a plan was developed for the “transition” year (2019/2020 school year – when the Stratford Central building will be under construction). After examining the results from the thoughtexchange, consulting with staff, and the Ministry of Education, a seventh option (grades 7-9 at Stratford Central and grades 10-12 at Stratford Northwestern) was considered as it best met the criteria and took into consideration the results from thoughtexchange.
What’s happening now?
At this time, we are reviewing the details of our preferred option (#7), to ensure the criteria is met. The full list of criteria includes: creating positive, inclusive environments and maximizing outcomes to meet the needs of all student profiles, breadth of program, sense of belonging, safety, movement of ~ 300 pupil spaces, school and class organization, staff teaching more often in specialty areas, reduction in stacked classes, student and staff timetables/collective agreements, transitions, space and facilities, busing, scheduling, boundaries for schools, and budget.
Based on this criteria, option 7 is our preferred option for the following reasons: strict boundaries would not need to be enforced and enrollment numbers and capacity issues would be addressed; students would not have to travel between sites (this issue was highly criticized in the thoughtexchange results); and students would have the most course options as the widest breadth of programming would be possible due to the congregation of students. This is particularly pertinent given recent changes to secondary class sizes proposed by the Ontario government.
There have been some questions about this proposed organizational structure. Research shows that the teacher has most impact on student learning and second to that is school leadership, especially by the principal (Leithwood et al., 2004). This research is used extensively by our Ministry of Education. Therefore, we believe that our staff will make the most significant difference for students, not the organizational structure.
Transition Year (2019/2020 school year)
Details for the “transition” year have been announced and we continue to work through planning and questions that arise (transportation, parking, locker space, sports teams, etc.). Throughout this week (June 24), Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern elementary students attended Stratford Northwestern for a variety of fun skill and relationship building activities. Details have been provided in our monthly newsletter updates. An additional June edition was sent to families the week of June 17.
Construction (including asbestos abatement and demolition) began on Monday June 24.
Decision-making for our Vision Years (2020/2021 school year and beyond)
Throughout this summer, school board staff will continue to examine the details of option 7. It is anticipated that we will be able to announce our final decision later in the fall of 2019. Opportunities for feedback with staff, students, parents and community members will continue as we move forward with this project.
We understand that uncertainty can cause stress. We are optimistic that next year will bring exciting opportunities for students to experience a variety of courses, and to make new friends and connections. We are confident that it will be a positive and exciting year for our students. We will continue to fine-tune the many details throughout the summer.
We wish you a safe and happy summer! If you have any questions about this information, please contact your principal at either Stratford Central or Stratford Northwestern.
Dr. Lisa Walsh
Director of Education and
Secretary of the Board
February 8, 2019
To Parents/Guardians of Stratford and area,
As you know, Avon Maitland District School Board received funding to address significant structural issues at Stratford Central Secondary School. The funding requires us to reduce the number of student spaces at Stratford Central by about 300. We have supplemented that funding with board funds to address accessibility issues at the school.
Throughout this process we have remained committed to the renewal of our schools; renovating and enriching Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern to better meet the needs of our learners. At the same time, we need to balance enrolment and fiscal realities, and provincial regulations. It has not been an easy process. We understand, and have been clear from the outset, that this is a sensitive issue with no one solution that will meet the wishes of all stakeholders.
On January 11th, we provided an update on our status. We highlighted our thorough, consultative process as we analyzed our six options against the criteria, and considered the stakeholder input gathered through thoughtexchange. That input told us that high-quality education, breadth of program and a sense of belonging were everyone’s top priorities for students.
The review showed significant challenges within each of our six original options. They were not possible without significant consequences, such as increased concurrent programs, travelling back and forth between locations and loss of some program options at both schools. However, through this exploration and with consideration of the input provided, another exciting option for consideration emerged — Option 7, a ‘One School-Two Campus’ model.
To remain transparent, we want to make sure that we communicate that this new option is preferred, as it meets the criteria and matches, most closely, the input gathered in thoughtexchange. Option 7 provides an incredible opportunity to create innovative and enhanced programming for all of our Stratford students, grades 7-12, and not unlike other options, would see the migration of Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern to a ‘One School – Two Campus’ model:
- Central Campus housing grades 7 to 9
- Northwestern Campus housing grades 10 to 12
This dual campus model ensures maximum program flexibility for our students now, and in the future. It provides equitable access to a wider variety of high-quality course options in all grades, driven by student choice, and finally, it allows for all students to develop a sense of belonging in each school over a period of time. We are excited about the possibilities this option affords, and are beginning to explore with our curriculum, student success and pathways teams.
We know that this has been stressful, but it is important that we get it right because the impact these decisions have on students, parents and the community, are profound. We are working on the most appropriate process to evaluate all options and reach a final decision.
We will keep you up-to-date and inform everyone on our next steps as soon as possible.
To receive notifications as this process unfolds, please visit the Stratford page of our website and subscribe to the mailing list for updates: yourschools.ca/stratford-public-schools/.
Please know we are always open to hearing and responding to your questions. These can be posted at bit.ly/StratfordSchoolsFeedback.
Dr. Lisa Walsh
Director of Education and
Secretary of the Board
December 5, 2018
To Parents, Guardians and Caregivers
Re: Transition Year Program and Accommodation Update for Stratford Public Schools Renovation Project
In May of this year, Avon Maitland District School Board announced Ministry of Education funding of $5,135,207.00 for the required renovations to address structural issues at Stratford Central Secondary School. The renovation currently in design will require Ministry approval. Our intention is to have the renovations completed and the school re-opened by September 2020.
As part of the transition year, Stratford Central will close for renovations as of June 21, 2019. During this year, all students will be together at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School. We received a lot of information for consideration from our thoughtexchange input gathering process, and for this, we are grateful. We are committed to minimizing the disruption to learning, by having all students together to ensure the smoothest transition possible for students, staff and the community.
The school day during the transition year will closely resemble existing start and end time for both school communities, and will remain within the current busing window. AMDSB will offer one course calendar for both schools so that every student has access to a full breadth of program. To accommodate all program offerings for students, the use of satellite spaces such as the Stratford YMCA is presently being examined, as well as the addition of portables.
The steering committee is committed to looking at the details that matter to our students such as program development, building a sense of belonging for all students in one school, sports teams, clubs, transportation, locker space and many other important considerations. There will be additional opportunities for students, staff and parents / guardians to provide input into how to make the transition year run smoothly.
To stay up to date on transition plans, please visit yourschools.ca/stratford-public-schools.
If you have any questions about this information, please contact your principal at either Stratford Central Secondary School, or Stratford Northwestern Secondary School.
Dr. Lisa Walsh, Director of Education – Avon Maitland District School Board
2018 10 24
RE: TRANSITION YEAR 2019/2020
Dear Parents/Caregivers/Students of Stratford Northwestern and Stratford Central,
After multiple discussions with the Ontario Ministry of Education over the past several weeks, the modifications outlined below are being made to this current school year calendar (January to June 2019). The reason for these changes is the necessary asbestos abatement (removal) required prior to any demolition occurring at Stratford Central. Please note that the asbestos is all encapsulated, so safe for all students and staff in the building. See the revised 2018-19 school year calendar for Stratford Northwestern and Stratford Central.
Consultations over the past several months with asbestos abatement specialists, an environmental consultant, and an architect have led us to the conclusion that the timelines for demolition and rebuilding must be altered to provide sufficient time to support the re-opening of Stratford Central in September 2020. Demolition must begin July 2019, so the asbestos abatement related to the 1958 wing must happen prior to the end of June for demolition to begin at the first of July. It is also important that both secondary school populations of grades 9 to 12 are aligned and able to write the majority, if not all, of their exams in their home schools.
We are working to ensure that all details are considered with this modification of the calendar to ensure a smooth end to the school year, while reducing anxiety for students and staff. We continue to do all we can to support student achievement and well-being.
Students in grades 7 and 8 will be moved to Stratford Northwestern from June 24 to June 27. There will be classes and activities to involve students in the transition to the new school. More information will follow as details are confirmed.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your school principal.
Emma Watts, Principal, SN
Kevin Mills, Principal, SC
June 22, 2018
Thank you for your patience as we work towards answering the many questions regarding the Stratford renovation project slated to begin in the summer of 2019. We do understand the unease you may be feeling as you contemplate the future without having all the answers. We want to arrive at the best possible options for our students’ education moving forward.
Given the complexity and time crunch with summer approaching, we are extending Phase 1 into October. This will allow us more time to consider the best possible options that we will share with students and parents for input.
|Phase 1||May – October 2018||School-based construction concept for Stratford Central based on programming|
|Phase 2||October 2018 – May 2019||Transition planning to move students and program from Stratford Central for one year|
|Phase 3||May 2019 – May 2020||Transition plan implementation|
|Phase 4||January 2020 – August 2020||Transition plan to move students and program back to Stratford Central|
|Phase 5||Sept 2020||Re-Opening of Stratford Central|
We encourage you to continue to read the FAQs page on our website, which has a page dedicated to this project. https://yourschools.ca/stratford-public-schools.
It is there where we are providing answers as they become available. We are also using social media (Facebook and Twitter) to alert the public when we have updates.
The date and format for consultation will be provided as soon as it becomes available. The best viable options for moving forward will be shared with senior staff, trustees, staff, students, parents and the community for further refinements and consideration.
Again, thank you for your patience, understanding and continued support. We look forward to the opportunities ahead as we proceed with providing the best possible public education for students in Stratford now and long into the future.
Kevin Mills & Emma Watts
Principals of Stratford Central SS & Stratford Northwestern SS
Monday, May 7, 2018
Dear Avon Maitland District School Board Families:
We are pleased to announce an upcoming renovation project at Stratford Central School. This much needed project is possible due to Ministry of Education funding of more than five million dollars. The upgrades will mean a rejuvenation of the school in Stratford’s downtown core.
The AMDSB plans to augment this funding to do additional renovations and enhance accessibility at Stratford Central and to continue ongoing improvements at Stratford Northwestern School.
This project means your child (children) will benefit from integrated programming that will lead to enhanced options in both Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern.
Construction will begin in the early summer of 2019. There will be no changes for students in the 2018/2019 school year. However, for September 2019 all Stratford Central students and staff will attend Stratford Northwestern and possibly other alternative school locations, to be determined. We understand this will be a disruption for everyone affected. We will work together with you our valued partners in our Stratford schools to make the transition as smooth as possible. The results of this project will enhance our education system for years to come.
Consultation with both schools’ administrators and staff is already underway. Consultations with our students, families and stakeholders regarding renovations and the transition period will take place in the near future. There will be opportunities for your feedback and we will continue to update you on the progress of this project.
We thank the Ministry of Education for its financial support in helping us to revitalize public education in Stratford. We look forward to working in partnership with you to continue to provide the best and most engaging public education possible. If you have any questions, I encourage you to visit our website www.yourschools.ca where you will find more information. We have anticipated questions that you may already have. Please see our FAQs sheets and then submit any others you would like considered. We will consider all submitted questions as we work together to build our plan for the future of education at Stratford Central and Stratford Northwestern.
Lisa Walsh, PhD
Director of Education