Mass school closure proposed for UCDSB

BROCKVILLE – The Upper Canada District School Board is looking at sweeping changes to its school system, which could see 16 schools closed by the end of this school year.

In a report entitled Building for the Future: Pupil Accommodation Review, the board has also earmarked 13 other schools that could shutter if the board receives money to build new schools or to allow the renovation of existing buildings.

The plan, which is 188 pages, is the most comprehensive school realignment since Boundary 2020, undertaken in 2008, which saw grade 7 and 8 students shifted into high schools.

Trustees will discuss the initial staff report on the accommodation review on Wednesday night (Sept. 28) at their regular board meeting at 6:30 p.m. in Brockville, Ont.

Student enrollment has declined by 3,500 elementary students (17 per cent of enrollments) over the past decade and by 4,000 in high schools (30 per cent of enrollments) during the same time period (2005-2015), the report stated.

With nearly 10,000 empty seats in classrooms across Eastern Ontario and a school board relying on funding from the Ministry of Education (MOE) based on how full a classroom is, it’s hoped the radical shift will bring in more money.

That MOE cash would, in turn, be used for renovations, additions and the building of new schools to follow through on the second half of the accommodation plan to close an additional 13 schools.

Under the plan, 12 schools would close June 30, 2017 with students sent to nearby schools with no need for renovations or additions at the receiving schools. They are: Benson P.S. in Edwardsburgh-Cardinal, Char-Lan D.H.S. in Williamtown, Glen Tay P.S. in Bathurst, Long Sault P.S., North Elmsley P.S. in Drummond, Oxford-On-Rideau P.S. in Oxford Mills, Pakenham P.S., Plantagenet P.S., Rideau Centennial P.S. in Portland, Rothwell-Osnabruck S.S. in Ingleside, Seaway D.H.S. in Iroquois and Wolford P.S. in Merrickville-Wolford.

A further four (4) schools would close June 30, 2017 but some renovations would be needed to get ready for the September 2017 school year. Iroquois and Morrisburg schools would close with students from both schools going to Seaway D.H.S. (even though Seaway is slated for closure). An addition would be built at the Iroquois School. S.J. McLeod and Williamstown schools would close and students would go to Char-Lan D.H.S. until an addition is completed at the Williamstown school (even though Char-Lan D.H.S. is slated for closure).

The board has also identified nine other schools for possible closure but those would only happen if the ministry approved funding for facility upgrades. There is no timeline on these proposed closures because they are contingent on funding. Here are the possible scenarios:

  • Caldwell P.S. in Carleton Place is in bad condition. It would close if an addition could be built at Arklan School or the ministry approved funding for a rebuild of Caldwell.
  • Glengarry D.H.S. in Alexandria would close if there was a valid business case to make changes at Vankleek Hill C.I. While the majority of students would go to Tagwi S.S., there is not enough room at the Vankleek Hill school to hold the grade 9-12 students that live closer to Vankleek Hill.
  • Maynard P.S. and South Edwardsburgh P.S. in Prescott – Mayard has condition issues but there’s not enough space at other schools to accommodate students. Maynard would only close if the ministry approved a rebuild of Wellington School in Prescott.
  • St. Lawrence S.S. and Cornwall Collegiate V.S. (CCVS) would close if the ministry approved the building of a new Cornwall high school.
  • Sweet’s Corners P.S. in Lyndhurst would close if the ministry approved a rebuild of South Crosby School in Rideau Lakes.
  • Maxville P.S. and North Stormont P.S. would close if the Ministry of Education approved an addition for Roxmore P.S. in Avonmore.

An additional proposal for trustees to consider is having the Smiths Falls so-called feeder group of schools attend Smiths Falls District High School for grades 7-12. They would be put in 4-6 portables.

If the closures took place and the UCDSB was able to access more government money, the following improvements would be made over the next few years as part of a capital properties plan:

  • Rebuild of Wellington P.S. in Prescott
  • Rebuild of South Crosby P.S. in Rideau Lakes
  • A new Cornwall high school (to replace SLSS and CCVS)
  • Perth and District Collegiate (a replacement)
  • Rebuild of Caldwell P.S. in Carleton Place
  • Rebuild of Commonwealth P.S. in Brockville
  • A new gym, office and classrooms at Westminster in Brockville
  • An addition and renos at Williamstown school
  • A new daycare, gym and classrooms at Roxmore in Avonmore
  • An addition and renos at Drummond, north of Perth
  • An addition at North Grenville District High School
  • An addition and significant renovation at Iroquois school

It should be noted that all these recommendations will be going through an extensive public review period before a final decision is made in March 2017.

If trustees approve the plan Wednesday night, four superintendents will be assigned to four accommodation review committees (ARC). Val Allen will cover the Prescott-Russell family of schools; Tim Mills will oversee Cornwall, Highland and Dundas school families; David Coombs will oversee Grenville, Brockville and River families and Susan Edwards will be in charge of the ARC for the Rideau, Lanark South and Lanark North families of schools.

The ARCs in the eastern section will hold an orientation session on Oct. 20 at Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore and the ARCs in the western section will hold a similar meeting at Smiths Falls District High School on Oct. 24.

“There will be many opportunities for parents, students and the public to share their thoughts in response to the draft recommendation presented with this Initial Staff Report,” the report stated.

A final decision is expected on March 23, 2017.