Update on the Halton District School Board Long Term Accomodation Plan

The HDSB held a public meeting in Oakville on October 2nd, 2008 for review of its Long Term Accommodation Plan.

The plan seems to be more of the same for Halton public elementary schools with schools designed for approximately 500 students being upsized with classrooms to hold about 700 students … and then portables added to accommodate excess enrolment. This puts stress on the ability of schools to deliver programs (overcrowding infringes on ability to have special use classrooms such as music, art, technology) and denies students a desired level of access to common facilities (gymnasium, library, computers). This plan seems to be driven by the monetary consideration that it is more efficient cost-wise to run more students through the same common facilities: the Superintendent of Business Services expressed how little it costs HDSB for construction if he takes a school for 500 students and adds on classrooms to fit in another 200 students.

There is a cost-quality equation. As parents we’d like programs to be delivered to our children and for them to receive reasonable access to school facilities: we don’t think programs and access to facilities should be compromised because our families live in new developments. The HDSB has not communicated whether they have other priorities or if there is a lack of funding that is at odds with delivering this quality of education to new schools, maybe it’s both.

Note on Full-time Kindergarten

The Superintendent of Business Services indicated that the Province has asked the HDSB to revise its submission for new elementary schools by increasing school size to accommodate full-time kindergarten. The impression left was that this was a good indicator of where the Province is headed on this issue. He also noted that the HDSB had yet to decide (or perhaps it will be the Province’s decision) whether full-time kindergarten would be administered under the Day Nurseries Act or the Education Act: this would affect student-teacher ratios and space per student, among other things.

Presently, there are 32 kindergarten classes in the HDSB and HCDSB schools that serve Ward 6 Oakville: 9 Joshua Creek PS, 4 Falgarwood PS, 5 Sheridan PS (18 HDSB); 5 St. Marguerite d’Youville CS, 6 St. Andrew CS, 3 Holy Family CS (14 HCDSB). This means 16 new classes for our schools. Given that most of these schools already have portables, this means many more portables and more stress on program delivery and denial of access to common facilities.

If full-time kindergarten is phased in, schools like Joshua Creek PS may be put near the end of the list as it may not have room for additional portables, or else further boundary changes would be needed. Other schools with portables may also be put near the end of the list as the additional classes from implementation in these schools mean additional portables which are an additional cost compared to implementing in underutilized schools in other communities within Halton. For parents who want full-time kindergarten this would mean another programming shortfall.

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