Students at two North Bay secondary schools are benefiting from an increased student population and the rise of specialized learning opportunities.
The consolidation of the three city secondary schools, has provided the Near North District School Board (NNDSB) the ability to offer an increased number of programs for students at the two city schools. West Ferris Secondary School and Chippewa Secondary School are now able to offer increased specialized programming and have rejuvenated existing programs by bringing together additional resources and skilled staff.
The consolidation not only allowed for additional programs to be offered in North Bay, but also allowed for a reallocation of specialized staff from all schools to strengthen programming in the two remaining secondary schools and ultimately build a stronger learning environment for students.
Both city schools have undergone extensive renovations to create innovative spaces for specialized programs. At the two schools, renovations to the Indigenous learning centres, special education spaces, arts and wellness programming are just some of the areas that saw building improvements and program enhancements.
Special Education spaces include state-of-the-art, self-sufficient learning spaces where students can enhance their life skills and educational experience. New kitchens and laundry facilities, sensory rooms, accessible washrooms, and lounges are just some of the exciting improvements.
At West Ferris Secondary School, upgrades also include new arts and media studios, and upgrades to the sports complex. Learning spaces have been upgraded to support new specialized programs, and revitalised learning opportunities. West Ferris now boasts Specialist High Skills Major Programming in Arts and Culture, Business, Engineering/Design, Environmental Education, and Manufacturing. WFSS has proudly introduced the new Near North Sports Program this year and continues to offer the long-standing STEAM program and the highly esteemed Apple Distinguished School designation.
The coveted Arts Nipissing program now enjoys a new home at WFSS with a larger auditorium, and newly built state of the art dance, media arts and film studios. The programing has been enhanced by the addition of Culinary Arts; Hospitality, and Event Planning.
Grade 11 student and arts representative Ian McCormack expressed enthusiasm about the new and enhanced programming.
“One of the great things about having these three programs is that I was in STEAM for Grade 9 and 10, and now that Arts Nipissing is coming, I can do both. So, I can do Arts Nipissing and graduate with both certificates,” he said.
Megan Byrne, Grade 12 student council president, and temporary senator added that she was happy to see Arts Nipissing come to West Ferris and even evolve into new programming. “At Widdifield, I was in Arts Nipissing, so I was really happy to be able to continue it over here and the creation of a new culinary arts program, which I think is very cool … lots of great new courses that are being offered.”
“The staff is doing a great job at making everyone feel welcome here,” said an excited McCormack.
“The consolidation of both schools allowed for an expansion of talent. I have more sections to offer students and it allows for more diversification, and more staff who have the skillset in the classroom,” explained WFSS Principal Andy Gagne.
At Chippewa Secondary School, enhanced learning for students includes; new aesthetics and culinary programs, a newly built wellness room, enhanced French immersion, upgraded spaces for students with exceptionalities, foods and nutrition kitchens, enhanced resources for Indigenous students, and a STEM lab for Grade 7 and 8 students. In addition, the International Baccalaureate program continues, and Specialist High Skills Majors, Health and Wellness has been added to the existing SHSM programs in Business and Sports.
The STEM lab, which is dedicated for intermediate students, allows them to get a feel for what secondary school opportunities will be like and enhance their learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“Students and staff are all extremely excited and proud of Chippewa Secondary School. Expanded and new program opportunities will support the educational journey of our learners! There is choice for everyone! The students at CSS will benefit for years to come as we continue to carefully plan and implement programming in our new spaces,” said CSS Principal Julie Beaudoin.
Because student wellness is a priority for NNDSB, wellness rooms have been renovated to offer students a space to maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul. Weightlifting, Pilates, and personal goal routines are just some of the opportunities to build a healthy future for the students’ body and mind. Programming will continue to be developed as school administration and students work collaboratively together to enhance resources for students.
Staff at both schools are finding unique ways to have a welcoming environment for all students.
Memorabilia and resources from the former Widdifield Secondary School have been integrated throughout the West Ferris and Chippewa school communities. Student artwork, lockers, trophies and banners are just some of the pieces integrated into each school to make students feel welcomed and not forget the legacy of the school.
“What I found really welcoming coming into this building is seeing different artwork in the hallways that came from Widdifield. Recognizing Wildcat athletics, drama, and dance it has been nice to see some familiar things,” said Byrne.
Both WFSS and CSS have enhanced the Indigenous education spaces for students. There are spaces in each school where students who identify as Indigenous can learn about their culture from Elders, continue their traditions, and enhance their education in a welcoming environment.
“Everyone has been really welcoming here; staff, teachers, and the students. Obviously COVID has limited us to one classroom, but the class that I’ve been in has been really welcoming. From what I’ve heard from other students, they’ve made new friends and talk to different people,” said Byrne.
“This is exactly the result we expected and why we had to consolidate three high schools into two. Previous dwindling numbers in the three schools were a detriment to a wider range and better programming,” stated Board Chair Jay Aspin. “In effect, consolidation has actually increased enrollment. As our Board envisioned the major beneficiaries are our students and staff.”
“The innovative upgrades and new programming options at both Chippewa and West Ferris secondary schools will continue to enhance the learning opportunities of our students and prepare them for life after secondary school,” said Director of Education Craig Myles. “I would like to extend my thanks to our union and community partners, students, and staff whose contributions made for a smooth transition. Their combined efforts have made this consolidation a success.”
For more information, please contact:
Near North District School Board
P: (705) 472-8170, extension 5083