One step closer

Pub­lic Schools Branch rec­om­mend­ing new se­condary school in Strat­ford to ease over­crowd­ing in Char­lot­te­town schools

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE ISLAND - BY STU NEATBY Stu.neatby@the­

A plan to build a se­condary school in Strat­ford re­ceived what could be a de­ci­sive boost on Thurs­day night.

Ap­plause erupted as the board of the Pub­lic Schools Branch voted to back a plan to build a se­condary school in the com­mu­nity at a meet­ing at West Kent Ele­men­tary. The board said it would rec­om­mend the prov­ince fund new school con­struc­tion but left open the ques­tion of whether two schools would be con­structed to ac­com­mo­date grades 7-12 or just one high school for grades 10-12.

The de­ci­sion was made af­ter the board iden­ti­fied a need to ad­dress over­crowd­ing in Char­lot­te­town high schools, both of which are ex­pected to be over­ca­pac­ity by next year.

“Ed­u­ca­tion and our chil­dren are the most im­por­tant thing we have,” said PSB board mem­ber Har­vey MacEwen.

“We’ve got to make the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble for all our chil­dren.”

Close to 80 par­ents turned out for the meet­ing, the cul­mi­na­tion of a months-long process of con­sul­ta­tion.

Strat­ford Mayor David Dun­phy said he wasn’t sure what to ex­pect go­ing into the meet­ing.

“We’re very happy with the de­ci­sion,” Dun­phy said.

“We’ve been fight­ing for school in­fra­struc­ture in Strat­ford for many, many years. We’ve had over­crowd­ing for 25-plus years in Strat­ford for our stu­dents, so we feel that it’s time to deal with that is­sue.”

Dun­phy said the con­struc­tion of a se­condary school in Strat­ford would of­fer a long-term solution.

Lindi MacQuil­lan, a dis­trict ad­vi­sory coun­cil rep for Strat­ford Ele­men­tary School, said her ini­tial re­ac­tion to the news on Thurs­day was shock.

“Shocked be­cause we have a his­tory of not com­ing up with a long-term op­tion. We’re con­stantly com­ing up with Band-aid so­lu­tions,” MacQuil­lan said.

“I’m thrilled that they didn’t go with a Band-aid op­tion, that we’re re­ally look­ing at some solid so­lu­tions for the fu­ture.”

The board also de­cided to de­fer a de­ci­sion on re­zon­ing stu­dents in area ele­men­tary schools. Two op­tions had pro­posed re­zon­ing stu­dents from the Or­chard Hill/ Lewis Point Park or the Queen Street Cir­cle ar­eas from Spring Park Ele­men­tary to West Roy­alty Ele­men­tary.

PSB board mem­ber Dale Sabean said the post­pone­ment of this de­ci­sion will al­low them to ex­am­ine en­rol­ment num­bers and class com­po­si­tion data more closely.

“We can take the next month or two or three to look at those num­bers and come up with the best plan and still have it in place for next Septem­ber,” Sabean said.

An­other op­tion, which pro­posed re­zon­ing about 63 stu­dents liv­ing in the North River Road area from West Kent Ele­men­tary to St. Jean Ele­men­tary, was re­jected for the time be­ing due to an ex­pec­ta­tion that West Kent would not be over­ca­pac­ity be­fore 2021.

Ed­u­ca­tion, Early Learn­ing and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Jor­dan Brown will have to de­cide whether to al­lo­cate funds from the 2019-2020 cap­i­tal bud­get to a new Strat­ford school. Sabean said this de­ci­sion could come as early as Novem­ber.

A new school in Strat­ford was not the only rec­om­men­da­tion to come from the PSB board. The board also rec­om­mended the min­is­ter ap­prove fund­ing for 10 ad­di­tional class­rooms at West Roy­alty Ele­men­tary, an an­nual $3 mil­lion in­crease in the bud­get for school cap­i­tal re­pairs, a needs assess­ment of Mon­tague Con­sol­i­dated and El­liott River Ele­men­tary schools and a needs assess­ment of schools in the prov­ince over 20 years old.

Strat­ford Mayor David Dun­phy, right, and Coun. Keith Ma­cLean, left, along with Jonathan Dun­phy, ap­plaud the an­nounce­ment that the Pub­lic Schools Branch will be mov­ing for­ward with a rec­om­men­da­tion for build­ing a se­condary school in Strat­ford.

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