River­side South res­i­dents pe­ti­tion­ing Queen’s Park to fund new high school

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - BLAIR CRAW­FORD bcraw­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/getBAC

River­side South res­i­dents are step­ping up the pres­sure on the prov­ince to build a new pub­lic high school in their com­mu­nity.

The Ot­tawa-Car­leton Dis­trict School Board has made a new school in the fast-grow­ing neigh­bour­hood one of its pri­or­i­ties, but the board needs the OK from the prov­ince to pay for it.

Par­ents have started a pe­ti­tion that they hope will con­vince the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment to com­mit the money.

“The board has a very com­pelling busi­ness case as to why we need a high school in River­side South, but ul­ti­mately the decision about the fund­ing to build a school rests with the prov­ince,” said Lau­rie Rogers, who has three daugh­ters at Steve Ma­clean Pub­lic School on Spratt Road.

“The board owns a site that is de­vel­op­ment ready, but their hands are tied un­til they get the fund­ing.”

The clos­est high schools are Long­fields-David­son Heights and John McCrae in Bar­rhaven, but both are already bulging at the seams with stu­dents and ex­pected to get even more crowded as Bar­rhaven’s build­ing boom con­tin­ues. That means River­side South stu­dents face a 10-kilo­me­tre bus ride to Merivale High School or a 20-kilo­me­tre ride to South Car­leton High School in Rich­mond.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard great things about South Car­leton and Merivale, but peo­ple in the neigh­bour­hood want their kids to go to school lo­cally and not have to sit on a bus for so long,” Rogers said.

“And, ob­vi­ously, ac­cess to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties is chal­leng­ing when your kids are go­ing to school so far away.”

With no lo­cal pub­lic high school, many par­ents have cho­sen to send their kids to the Catholic St. Fran­cis Xavier High School on Spratt Road near Lime­bank Road, she said.

The pub­lic board projects South River­side to quadru­ple in size from its cur­rent 5,600 homes to more than 20,000 homes in the com­ing decade.

“They’re con­stantly build­ing. It’s been ex­po­nen­tial,” said Jen­nifer Jen­nekens, trustee for the area. “There’s no ques­tion that there is a need. Hope­fully, this pe­ti­tion will let the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion see that we mean busi­ness.”

The group is plan­ning a pe­ti­tion blitz on Satur­day and Sun­day at Mon­cion’s In­de­pen­dent Gro­cer on River Road be­tween 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The pe­ti­tion can also be down­loaded at river­sides­outh.org/pe­ti­tion.

The board has ear­marked a par­cel of land on the south­east cor­ner of Spratt and Earl Arm­strong roads for the new school.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive MPP Goldie Ghamari, who rep­re­sents the Car­leton rid­ing, has agreed to present the pe­ti­tion at Queen’s Park when the leg­is­la­ture be­gins its spring ses­sion, Rogers said.

WAYNE CUD­DING­TON

Lau­rie Rogers — with daugh­ters Jil­lian, 4, Chelsea, 7, and Rachel, 10 — and other River­side South par­ents are pe­ti­tion­ing the provin­cial gov­ern­ment to fund a new pub­lic high school in their area.

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