Fred Spolestra says if the provincial Conservatives plan to fund faith-based schools is enacted, he expects growth both in student population and programs at his high school.
Spolestra, principal at Durham Christian High School in Bowmanville, says the school board has not yet discussed the possible funding but he anticipates growth in the school if it becomes available.
The Opposition Leader John Tory has announced his plan to add $800 million to Ontario’s education budget and invite faith-based schools into the public system if elected Oct. 10. This would give all faith-based schools the same funding that Catholic schools currently receive.
“I’m definitely aware of families who would very much like to have their children at our school but the current fee structure does not make that possible,” says Spolestra.
The current tuition parents pay per family at Durham is $10,400. Spolestra says that when you consider many of these families have children also enrolled in Christian elementary schools, the price of tuition is out of reach for some people.
Spolestra also points out that demographics have a lot to do with enrollment. He says the middle class, which has traditionally been their support base, is becoming eradicated.
“We are not and have not been a school that is here for the wealthy, but with the decline in the middle class and the increase costs unfortunately we’re being forced in that direction, but who knows what that will bring,” he says.
Without funding for faith-based schools, Spolestra says they will be increasingly challenged to sustain enrollment levels. He notes the demographic trends are adversely impacting Christian elementary schools in the area.
Durham attracts students from a wide area, including Pickering, Cobourg, Port Perry and Peterborough.
“As the enrollment grows you’re able to offer more options to your senior-level students,” he says.
Spolestra says he would like to better be able to meet the diverse needs of students with special needs and gifted students.
Some areas Spolestra says he would like to expand upon includes the gymnasium, the music program, the art program and the addition of technical education facilities.
Three years ago the school purchased some additional property, and as their current facility is quite tight, Spolestra says funding for operating costs would enable consideration for building expansion.
Each school that chooses to receive funding under the Conservative plan would comply with Ontario curriculum, participate in standardized testing and employ accredited teachers.
Spolestra says if there will be some questions regarding these staffing requirements and leadership of the school.
“At this point, I’m certain that there’d be a lot of excitement for this, there would also be cautions with regard to control over staffing,” he says. “Those are questions that we would certainly want to deal with carefully and in terms of so-called strings attached.”