Written By: Friday, April 21st 2017

A packed school board meeting this week where controversial decision was made on Chesley high school students

Growing pains continue at Owen Sound’s newly amalgamated high school.

Owen Sound District Secondary School (OSDSS) is the product of a merger of OSCVI and West Hill students at the West Hill location after a highly controversial decision last year by the Bluewater school board.

Part of the plan involved the province approving the construction of a new school but that didn’t happen.

Now, more than 1,300 students plus staff are making the best of it.

Grade 11 student Tess Bainborough got up in front of trustees this week at their meeting regarding the accommodation review of Paisley, Chesley and Markdale and let them know the challenges of an overcrowded school.

Bainborough says she wanted to speak before the board voted on another controversial decision to remove high school students from Chesley and scatter them across various schools in the region next fall.

She tells Dock News she also decided to speak out after learning the reports the board were getting on the transition were not exactly reflective of the reality in the halls.

Bainborough, who says she realizes she’s not speaking for the entire student body, cites a daily struggle to even get to class on time or get a seat in the cafeteria because of overcrowded conditions.

She says its been difficult to get into some programs despite a promise from the board that the array of program options would be larger at the amalgamated school.

Even getting on a favourite sports team has become more difficult because of the competition.

“School spirit has also been hard to come by due to the fact that school assemblies are split by grades. Even if you’re happy with how things have turned out at OSDSS, there’s a frustration in feeling you just can’t be heard no matter what you do. You show up at meetings, you write speeches, you research and its just going to turn out the way its planned. The frustration with the process of not feeling like you can get your voice heard, of not feeling like you’re valued or that YOU matter.”

Bainborough received a lengthy standing ovation after her remarks at the Chesley offices Tuesday evening.

Dock News has also been told by multiple sources that a third of the former OSCVI staff are currently on leave, some of them for stress or they’ve retired earlier than expected, due, in part to the conditions at the school.

Those numbers have not been confirmed by the school board.

Board Chair Ron Motz says senior officials will be looking into some of the concerns addressed in Bainborough’s speech.

But he says whenever there’s a change, there’s always some disruption for a period of time until it works its way through the system.

“I can see that happening in Owen Sound. Staff will be working very hard to minimize the disruption moving forward”.

Motz says some of the issues will be solved over the next few years through a decline in enrollment.