Catholic board eyes merger of Thorold schools

By Wayne Campbell, special to Postmedia News

Monsignor Clancy in Thorold is being considered for a possible merge with St. Charles school. (Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network)

Monsignor Clancy in Thorold is being considered for a possible merge with St. Charles school. (Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network)

Catholic parents, students and school staffs in Thorold will begin to talk about blending two under-capacity elementary schools.

Niagara Catholic District School Board’s committee-of-the-whole Tuesday supported a staff suggestion for a modified accommodation review for Monsignor Clancy and St. Charles schools.

The recommendation goes to the board’s regular meeting for approval on Feb. 28.

Education superintendent Ted Farrell and his staff, in a report to the committee, said both schools are operating under capacity.

Monsignor Clancy, with grades 4 to 8, is at 60 per cent. It could hold 573 students, but has 341.

St. Charles, a kindergarten-to-grade-3 school, is at 67 per cent capacity, 280 students in a school made for 418.

Board staff outlined four options for the schools:

• Move the students to a renovated Monsignor Clancy and close St. Charles;

• Build a new school at the Monsignor Clancy site;

• Renovate St. Charles and close Monsignor Clancy;

• Keep both schools, renovate them, demolish excess space at Monsignor Clancy and change neighbouring school boundaries to fill St. Charles.

Farrell said it would be easier to get Ministry of Education grants for renovations to an existing school than for a new $14-million school.

He said he would be reluctant to promise the Thorold community a new school that the board may not be able to deliver.

The modified accommodation review would reduce the number of public meetings to one but also include a meeting of the two school councils and a special school board meeting at Monsignor Clancy to receive delegations.

The review would begin after the Feb. 28 board meeting and end with a board meeting on June 27.

Facilities services administrator Kathy Levinski said the modified review was suggested because the two schools already operate under the same boundaries. They are in the same Holy Rosary parish and are 1.1 kilometres apart.

Students begin at St. Charles for kindergarten to Grade 3, move to Monsignor Clancy for grades 4 to 8 and then continue on to Denis Morris High School.

Farrell said during the review all options would be presented to the public along with reports the trustees receive. They would be posted on the school board’s website along with an e-mail address to which residents could send comments.

“There are lots of opportunities for communication,” he said.

Moving into one school would reduce maintenance, operation and transportation costs. It would also unite families split between schools and bring the two staffs and resources together.

Both schools now require maintenance and technology upgrades.

St. Charles is an aging building built in 1950 and has had four additions put on it.

Monsignor Clancy went up in 1964 as an elementary school, expanded to a high school and then reverted to an elementary school. It would require a $3.3-million retrofit to serve kindergarten and primary students.

Monsignor Clancy is on a large site and has a big gym, theatre and technology shops.

Farrell said during the review the board would be looking for feedback on all options.

In answer to trustees’ questions, he said the layout of the review process from Feb. 28 to June 27 could be adjusted to accommodate more public meetings.

If a merger of the two schools is recommended following the review, it would not happen until 2019 or 2020, said board chair Rev. Paul MacNeil.