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February 22, 2003

Grade 9 classes to remain in Belleville

From: Belleville Intelligencer, Canada - 22 Feb 2003

By Barry Ellsworth The Intelligencer

Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 10:00

Local News -

The Ministry of Education has relented and will allow Grade 9 academic and applied courses to remain at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville and the Robarts school in London.

The reversal came after about 15 speakers made emotional pleas to three ministry representatives at a meeting attended by about 200 people Thursday at the Belleville school. Neil Burrell, chairman of the Whitney school council, said the reversal near the end of the evening caught everyone off guard.

?It was absolutely unbelievable,? he said, Friday. ?They back-tracked. It was late in the meeting and it was sort of slid in.?

Hellen Bogie, retiring director of provincial schools, made the statement about three hours into the meeting, Burrell said.

Previously, the ministry had said academic and applied Grade 9 courses would be transferred to E.C. Drury in Milton in September. That left deaf students who wanted to work toward a high school diploma with two options ? attend the Milton school or go to regular high school with an American Sign Language interpreter provided.

But Thursday?s announcement gives parents and students another choice.

?They have stated that remaining here through graduation from high school is an option,? Burrell said.

John Williams, who is the Prince Edward-Hastings Conservative candidate in the next provincial election, said Friday that he had been working behind the scenes to solve the problem.

He said he didn?t understand why the Grade 9-will-stay announcement was made so late in the meeting, but wanted to clarify the situation.

?There is no school closure under consideration,? Williams said, adding that it was definite that Grade 9 would remain in Belleville. ?That is off the table. That?s the bottom line to it. I think the decision is right.?

The Ministry of Education issued a press release to that effect Friday afternoon.

Burrell said parents were elated over the news, but wanted to have the announcement in writing.

?We are going to be writing to the minister and requesting written confirmation that the high school program will stay here,? he said, adding they would also ask for a moratorium on any more changes, including school closures.

© 2003  Belleville Intelligencer