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Placing Grade 7 and Grade 8 students into a secondary school environment is unacceptable and it seems that the almighty dollar is barking at the notion common sense should rule. This move could negatively impact the safety, social and emotional development of children. And yes, many Grade 8 students are still children.

The most consequential reason is physicality. Statistically two thirds of girls and one third of boys have gone through puberty in Grade 8. In Grade 9, all or most boys and girls have experienced this life changing event.

A ninth Grader is too sophisticated for Grade 7 and Grade 8 students who want to emulate their older peers. That is why past educators believed Kindergarten to Grade 8 was such a strong buffer in protecting childhood years.

Peer influence is powerful and children have a tendency to act out in the journey toward adulthood. Pupils 11 to 14 years of age could be pressured to place their childhood behind them if interaction with young adults is unavoidable and to subject younger students to others who have recently crossed such an emotional threshold is a very naive position to take.

Ask a teacher about the importance of Kindergarten to Grade 8. Grade 7 and Grade 8 students are the schoolʼs leaders in success, motivation, standards, mood and the overall reputation of their school. That phenomena disappears with this plan.

Sadly for some students school is the only real family atmosphere they experience. On that point alone, this change is suspect and runs the real risk of that child losing, for a second time, their school adopted family before they have reached an emotional strength of their own.

The option to move Grade 7 and Grade 8 students from the overpopulated Northport Elementary and École Port Elgin Saugeen Central schools into unused rooms at Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) was presented as a lower cost midterm option. Tax payers need to know how much lower and why is lower even an option.

This proposed timetable does not benefit these students as studies suggest that Math and English marks will go down. Just because other Bluewater community schools have made like decisions does not make it right.

Experience also suggests that some teachers relish teaching in a portable classroom and some students behind the emotional curve thrive in this protected environment. In years gone by when SDSS and ÉPESCS did have multiple portables they worked.

Logic would suggest new additions to both Northport and ÉPESCS. Expansion of SDSS worked.

Hopefully Saugeen Shores Council will take a strong stand against this proposal.

Government policy that supports new schools but not school additions needs to change. Rather than choosing the money path we need to choose the setting that best supports learning environments for students.

Huron-Bruce MP for our riding, Lisa Thompson, has been appointed Minister of Education and needs to hear that a different funding formula is needed.

The ultimate goal of every teacher, regardless of subject, should be self esteem building. The subject(s) we teach are merely the tools we use. The time we take with children is crucial and that thread from Kindergarten to Grade 8 should be seamless.

The importance of establishing that continuous strand in a young personʼs mind is what creates that confidence to move into adulthood. Students base their successes on this history of accomplishment and that critical factor should not be interrupted by forcing Grade 7 and 8 students out of childhood before they naturally do it.

Wayne McGrath

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