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Classrooms To Close Due To Low Enrollment

The public school board in Chatham-Kent is planning to shut down more classrooms this fall to save money due to low enrollment.

An official with the board says potential consolidation is also on the table.

According to a release from the Lambton-Kent School Board, enrollment is projected to be at or below 40% at Ridgetown District High School, Lambton Kent Composite School, and Blenheim District High School over the next three years. As a result, seven, 12, and 15 classrooms will be closed at each school, respectively.

Superintendent of Education Gary Girardi said the closures will not affect students as the rooms they’re closing up are current being used as storage or meeting rooms.

“There’s savings every time we close a classroom up for the year,” Girardi said. “We reduce service to that classroom and therefore there is a savings of about $3,000 per room. If we save on closing 100 or 200 classrooms during the year, that is money we can put back into other programs.”

Girardi said funding from the province is directly related to enrollment, which means schools with very low enrollment have to find ways to create savings any way they can.

The superintendent added consolidation is also something being considered. He said since the school boards amalgamated, there have been four occasions of joining multiple schools together.

“These are processes where we have to have long discussions with our community partners and parents within the areas where we consolidate schools,” Girardi said. “People have close ties to schools in their communities and we want to be respectful of those ties. We have to be sure of the steps and process to find a consolidation that works for everybody.”

The superintendent said while there are negative aspects of consolidation, like breaking ties with community schools and in some cases longer travel times for students, he said there is a lot of good that comes out of them.

“The creation of a larger student body means we have a greater efficiency and can potentially offer more programs. More students means there can be a wider variety of courses and activities,” says Girardi.

According to Girardi, the board has been working on bringing students in from overseas in an effort to get enrollment up. He said there has been an increase in international students’ desire to come and take courses in the area. Girardi said students want to come here to learn English and stay to continue their post-secondary education in Canada.

The superintendent added the board is also working with community groups to rent out the empty rooms and create more revenue for the schools.