Par­ent wants to save Queen Vic­to­ria school

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - FRONT PAGE - BRUCE BELL

There’s been no shortage of opin­ions re­gard­ing the po­ten­tial clos­ing and chang­ing of school bound­aries in Belleville and at least one mother is fight­ing to pre­serve the city’s oldest ele­men­tary school.

The Hast­ings and Prince Ed­ward Dis­trict School Board held its sec­ond of two pub­lic meet­ings at Quinte Sec­ondary School on Wed­nes­day even­ing to gather pub­lic in­put on the longterm capital and ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view which could re­sult in sweep­ing changes to the school land­scape in the city. Early rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude changes to 11 city schools, with some clos­ing, con­sol­i­da­tion of oth­ers and per­haps a new high school and ele­men­tary school on the way.

More than 150 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing to hear where the board is in the process and of­fer their opin­ions.

An­gela McPher­son would like to see Queen Vic­to­ria, open since 1912, con­tinue to func­tion as an op­er­at­ing school.

“It’s the oldest func­tion­ing school in the board and I think we need to pre­serve some of the his­tory there,” she said. “We had our 100th an­niver­sary five years ago and I served on the com­mit­tee for that and the his­tory we have is un­be­liev­able and to wipe that away would be a shame.”

McPher­son went to the school be­fore at­tend­ing BCI and her chil­dren also at­tended Queen Vic prior to high school as well.

“It truly is a com­mu­nity school,” she said.

“Just about ev­ery stu­dent walks there and most of the fam­i­lies are all in­volved in all the ac­tiv­i­ties there as well.

“Queen Vic­to­ria is a liv­ing his­tory and I don’t have to re­mind the board of the fi­asco sur­round­ing the clo­sure of BCI more than 20 years ago — his­tory does matter and we need to pre­serve it.”

Board of­fi­cials cited de­clin­ing en­rol­ment, ag­ing fa­cil­i­ties and high up­keep costs as the rea­son for the rec­om­men­da­tion when they un­veiled the plan late last year.

The first and pre­ferred op­tion for the clo­sures of both Quinte and Moira Sec­ondary Schools and pend­ing Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing and ap­proval, a new fa­cil­ity con­structed in east-end Belleville to ac­com­mo­date stu­dents from both schools for 2020. Bound­aries would be ad­justed to al­low for the trans­fer of some Quinte stu­dents to Cen­ten­nial Sec­ondary School.

Sev­eral ele­men­tary schools would un­dergo changes as well. Un­der the plan, Hill­crest School would be closed with stu­dents bal­anced be­tween Park Dale and Prince of Wales schools in Septem­ber 2017. Also pend­ing fund­ing ap­proval from the Min­istry, both Queen El­iz­a­beth and Queen Vic­to­ria would close with a new fa­cil­ity built on the site of the for­mer Sir Win­ston Churchill School on MacDon­ald Av­enue in 2020. Bound­aries would be ad­justed to help al­le­vi­ate high en­rol­ment num­bers at Harry J. Clarke Pub­lic School.

Schools in the west end af­fected would be Sir John A. Macdon­ald drop­ping Grades 7 and 8 and those stu­dents mov­ing to Su­sanna Moodie. A bound­ary change rec­om­mended by the ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view com­mit­tee would see some of the younger (kinder­garten – Grade 6) stu­dents moved to Su­sanna Moodie as well.

A num­ber of par­ents were on hand, shar­ing a va­ri­ety of is­sues their chil­dren will face if their chil­dren are forced to move to an­other school.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Quinte Bal­let School, lo­cated on Palmer Road be­side Cen­ten­nial Sec­ondary, told board of­fi­cials mov­ing stu­dents from Sir John A. Macdon­ald could have dire con­se­quences for their en­rol­ment.

The sec­ond and least pre­ferred op­tion calls for the clo­sure of Quinte with ren­o­va­tions and ex­pan­sion at Moira. Ele­men­tary school changes are the same un­der both plans.

Across the en­tire re­gion, HPEDSB is fac­ing re­newal needs of $250 mil­lion over the next 10 years. Ele­men­tary schools are, on av­er­age, 54 years of age. Sec­ondary schools are, on av­er­age, 60 years of age. As well, re­cent fund­ing for­mula changes for school op­er­a­tions in­di­cate that it will not be pos­si­ble to op­er­ate and main­tain ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties at their cur­rent level of uti­liza­tion.

The com­bined re­newal needs over five years for the Cen­ten­nial, Moira and Quinte school groups is $60.6 mil­lion. Specif­i­cally, the com­bined re­newal needs for Moira and Quinte Sec­ondary Schools is $20.8 mil­lion.

In Novem­ber board trustees were pre­sented with two op­tions for Belleville’s three pub­lic high schools.

In ad­di­tion to Belleville, the board is also con­duct­ing re­views in Prince Ed­ward County and Cen­tre Hast­ings as well.

Kim Hor­ri­gan, HPEDSB man­ager of plan­ning, said the process was a long way from fin­ished and stressed no de­ci­sions have been made.

“In the ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view process as man­dated by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion re­quires boards to put for­ward pro­pos­als in the form of ini­tial staff rec­om­men­da­tions and these should not be in­ter­preted as pre­de­ter­mined out­comes but rather an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage in these dis­cus­sions,” she said.

A re­port with fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tions is to be pre­sented to the board of trustees on June 19.

BRUCE BELL/THE INTELLIGENCER

An­gela McPher­son speaks mem­bers of the Hast­ings and Prince Ed­ward Dis­trict School board at the sec­ond of two pub­lic meet­ings at Quinte Sec­ondary School on Wed­nes­day even­ing. The meet­ing was held to gather pub­lic in­put on the board’s long-term capital and ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view.

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