Accommodation Review Begins to Rebalance Enrolment at Peterborough High Schools

Those words strike terror into the hearts of parents of most school children because it means change is coming to their daily school routines.

Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Trustee presented a brief outline of the process that the board has begun to address enrolment imbalances in schools in our area.

Until ten years ago, enrolment at the KPRDSB was in decline, but enrolment has been rising by 2% per year over the past five years, a trend which is expected to continue.   This growth is concentrated on the periphery of the City of Peterborough in areas like Lily Lake Road, Cavan Monaghan and Selwyn. A committee has been working on developing a long term plan to balance student enrolment, focused on providing a healthy student learning environment, accommodating student diversity, maximizing the use of permanent, Board-owned facilities and establishing boundaries that consider natural geographic and municipal boundaries. The committee can use school boundary changes, changes to feeder school destinations, grade and cohort changes and the relocation of programs such as French Immersion to rebalance school enrolment.

Enrolment growth in Cavan Monaghan is one of the key drivers behind this initiative.  Millbrook South Cavan has already been expanded and currently operates at 131% of capacity, rising to 156% in ten years.  There are eight classroom portables now with capacity for four more.  Even new portables will not provide capacity to house the 267 elementary students expected to move into the four new subdivisions that are underway.  The Board has an option to purchase a new school site within the Towerhill North subdivision near the municipal buildings but have not received Ministry approval to proceed.

Things are not much better at North Cavan, where the 10 year enrolment growth indicates an anticipated school utilization rate above 145%. This school currently has four portables, which is the limit.  Active developments within in this school boundary are expected to bring 92 more students.  Under the existing plan for both North Cavan and Millbrook schools, new students in these developments will attend Roger Neilson PS for Grades JK-6, and Kenner for the rest of their public school years.  A new school in Millbrook would alleviate some of this enrolment pressure should it be approved.

The province will not provide funding for new schools or additions to existing ones unless existing school spaces nearby are full.  Kenner is not full.  It is currently operating at 69% of capacity.  This makes it unlikely a new school will be included in the Ministry of Education’s capital allocation for new schools this year.

The first community engagement event took place on April 17th at Kenner Collegiate.  At the Open House, each of the four rebalancing concepts were displayed and discussed in separate rooms in the building.  Parents and students were able to ask questions about the alternatives of KPRDSB representatives, who were well-versed in the concepts but seemed ill-prepared for some of the more pressing questions about the consequences of the alternatives, such as whether before and after school programs would be available to relocated students.

A major concern was transportation.  This is more complicated because the transitions are expected to be phased-in. This means that students already attending, say Crestwood Secondary school would complete their high school education in that facility.  Transitioning prevents moving students to a new school part way through their studies, but would likely require more buses to pick up students going to different schools. It is also inconvenient for parents, some of whom might have three children at three different locations.

There was a sense of futility among some parents who saw the process is just window-dressing before the announcement of a “done deal”, but there can’t be four done deals.  The board is encouraging feedback through an on-line survey called the Thought Exchange available on its website.  Parents should take them at their word and provide it: thoughtful, constructive feedback and suggestions.  Other school communities will be making themselves heard.  It’s easy to make the mistake of giving up your power by assuming you have none.

Council has also provided feedback through a letter to the Board and provincial representatives outlining community concerns and asking the board to conduct consultation meetings within the communities most affected by the proposals.

There are four main areas of concern in the two concepts that affect Cavan Monaghan community schools.  One is cultural: Millbrook and North Cavan students are from rural areas by choice.  Crestwood is in their community and reflects the rural culture of these feeder schools. In addition, some of our students have already experienced the upheaval of switching schools to help school building vacancies.  It could be argued that Crestwood is overcrowded because of the transfer of Millbrook’s grades seven and eight students a few years ago.  These alternative solutions create logistical nightmares for parents who have worked out before and after school support and transportation for after school activities.  Finally, the transportation budget will be stretched even more, assuming the board can find enough drivers to shuttle students to their new destinations.  The main objective is to find the solution that is best for students.

There is a precedent that indicates that the Board is open to suggestions.  During an accommodation review in the Clarington area, initial concepts offered by the board were replaced by one drafted by the community as the final plan.

There will be a second community engagement event this fall, which will outline revisions to current concepts or perhaps new ones that have emerged through community consultation.

A final staff report will be presented to the Board for final approval in December, and transition plans to implement the selected strategy in the fall of 2025.  KG

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