By Chris Pickup

The alarming pressures on capacity at Caledonia Centennial Public School with the enrolment of new students from the McClung development has convinced the Grand Erie school board it must push the province hard for a new school.

“The Board must acknowledge its top, long-term goal: a successful MOE major capital business case which will balance enrolment in Caledonia and result in a new, state-of-the-art, joint-use elementary school constructed in the McClung development” a staff report said Monday night.

“Each decision the Board makes must align with the long-term goal of building a new school in Caledonia. The longer the community goes without a new school, the more pressure it will create on current resources (buildings, land and programming). Focusing decisions on creating a strong business case also puts the needs of students first.”

Enrolment is surging at CCPS, with an increase of 78 students over the past school year, with the expectation it will grow exponentially.

In addition, the rapid increase in students at CCPS in 2017-18 created concerns around occupant load limits set by the Fire Code. During an average school day, the temporary number of students and staff in a classroom fluctuated, sometimes piercing the limits when a part-time educational assistant or other students joined the classroom. 

Board staff continue to meet with the local fire chief to ensure safety for all students and staff is the top priority.

An additional three portables at CCPS will accommodate the English stream and French Immersion program this year.

But staff recommended moving the CCPS grade 4-8 French immersion students over to River Heights in September 2019, bringing that school near to capacity, bolstering the case for a new school and relieving some of the pressure at CCPS.

There will be significant issues with space (137.2% over capacity) that will require board intervention in time for 2019-20. If the move is approved, capacity pressures won’t become a major concern again until 2020-21; by which time, the Board will hopefully be in the midst of a major construction project.

Lin Renner of the Parents of Students in Caledonia Ontario Facebook page is not impressed. 

“Administration stated this scenario (splitting and moving French) is recommended because this was the cleanest and easiest scenario to put on paper and explain to people. I would prefer to hear decisions around my kids education are made on what’s best for the children not what’s easiest to explain,” she posted.

“This proposed scenario doesn’t happen until 2019 and it is hard to understand how this will reduce the overcrowding. We will continue to see a rapid increase of enrolment over the coming years, which will far outweigh the few kids they plan to move from French. Not to mention all the negative affects it will have on splitting up the program

‘There is one more kick at the can on Oct 15 where we understand they do the “final stamp of approval”. It has been suggested that at the Oct 15 meeting, we have as many people attend and as many delegations from different perspectives as possible (ie French stream, English stream, Avalon, River Heights, etc.) 

‘If you don’t like what’s happening at our schools – Get your voice heard. Delegations have to be submitted by noon Oct 11 to be heard at the Oct 15 meeting.” 

Board staff also reviewed other scenarios:

All student registrations from new subdivisions will be directed to River Heights, effective immediately. This scenario would re-construct the boundary for the new McClung subdivisions by transferring all new student registrations to RHS, effective October 16. The impact to the community and programming complexities brings another set of challenges.

Relocate Grades 4-8 French Immersion to J.L. Mitchener Public School (JLM). All new student registrations from the McClung area to be directed to JLM. All new student registrations from to the McClung area to be given the choice of RHS or JLM. Complete overhaul of the boundaries for Haldimand North schools (RHS, CCPS, JLM, Seneca Central Public School and Oneida Central Public School) to balance enrolment.

Further exploration of these stalled due to barriers in distance, transportation, capacity, disruption to student achievement, family and community dynamics and misalignment with the Board’s long-term goal for the Caledonia community.

To read the report in its entirety, see pages 3-8 here: https://bit.ly/2R8zmoj.