Newcastle, Ont. — Declining enrollment numbers are making it difficult for Clarke High School to keep its doors open.
Clarke is the home school for kids living near Regional Road 42 and east, an area that includes the communities of Newcastle, Newtonville, Orono, Kirby and Kendall.
Enrollment is declining because the school doesn’t have the numbers needed to offer some programs, such as shop or arts classes. That’s leading some students to enroll at other schools, such as Bowmanville High School.
“The kids want to come here, but they aren’t offered the courses,” said parent Tracey Wheeler, who is concerned there might not be a future for the school. “They go to where the courses are offered.”
It’s a catch-22. As enrollment declines at Clarke, the need for teachers declines. The school has about 250 kids enrolled, though it has room for 576 students. Fewer teachers mean Clarke offers fewer courses. That, in turn, has kids looking to go to other schools.
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Peter Mangold, superintendent with Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, said that although Clarke has fewer options than other schools, it still has good programs.
“Forty out of the 50 students that graduate here attend a college or university program of their choice. That’s a pretty good percentage,” Mangold said.
One potential solution to the enrollment crisis would be to enforce boundaries and make local students attend local schools, he said.
“Maybe boundaries should change,” Mangold said. “But there is a process for that, and community consultations need to take place before we head into those discussions.”
Indeed, there is more to it than just preventing kids from going to certain schools. The school board would have to wait for the Ministry of Education to change the policy around accommodation.
For now, the school board is taking a wait-and-see approach. Recently, the Board’s resource committee accepted a staff recommendation to simply “monitor” the situation.
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