Reaction to the October 10th announcement by the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board proposal to establish an intermediate program for grade seven and eight students at Crestwood next fall continues as parents grapple with its implications. The proposal stems from the pressure from new housing developments in the Millbrook and Westmount Public School catchment areas which have resulted in local elementary schools operating at or above capacity, with more growth anticipated.
At the December 2nd Council meeting, Cavan Monaghan residents Cheri Davidson and Suzanne Mills presented a delegation to Council seeking their support to delay the transfer of grade 7 and 8 Millbrook students to Crestwood for one year. The presenters were seeking a letter of support from Council for a one year delay of the proposal, which they argued would allow local families time to adapt to the transition. Council did not agree.
While they asked for a delay of the transition, it was clear from their presentation that their preference was an outright rejection of the proposal in order to keep all elementary students at Millbrook permanently. They suggested that Millbrook students would endure a minimum daily bus commute of 90 minutes to attend Crestwood. They also estimated a significant environmental impact from the move stemming from additional trips to Crestwood by parents picking up the transferred students. They forecast an environmental cost of an additional one million metric tonnes of CO2 each year generated by a single trip per week by 100 families.
Transportation issues aside, the primary concerns about the proposal including those expressed in a Facebook group initiated by the group entitled “Staying Together, Growing Together” appear to be its social implications for local families. Some parents are worried about exposing the intermediate students to high school students, where opportunities for bullying and “age-inappropriate” behaviour could arise. With different schedules, intermediate students would not be available to support their younger siblings and would have less time with family.
The board plans to limit the integration of intermediate and senior students to mitigate concerns over bullying and other inappropriate social interaction. At Crestwood, intermediate and high school students would be segregated. The intermediate students would have dedicated washrooms and different schedules with separate lunch and break periods, and a dedicated Vice-Principal and secretary to support the students in the transition. Elementary and high school students already ride together on more than 90% of current bus routes serving the Crestwood school area. The board suggests that transferred students would benefit from a richer school experience with access to Crestwood’s outdoor track, playing field, cafeteria, music room and their sophisticated library facility. Leadership opportunities for intermediate students could be pursued at the neighbouring elementary school.
Not all parents believe the proposal is undesirable. In response to the presentation, Councillor Huntley suggested that the delay the presenters sought addressed few of the issues raised in their presentation. As a parent, he was more concerned about the impact of the current school population at Millbrook South Cavan School, where student volumes are already impacting student experience, restricting library and gym access to unacceptable levels. He commended school staff in their management of the current challenges presented by the high number of students at the school.
Criticisms about the lack of planning by the school board appear to be misdirected. KPR works closely with municipal planning departments and anticipated this growth. The Board owns land in the west end of Peterborough, and has requested a five acre school site be provided in the next phase of the Highland of Millbrook subdivision as a contingency for future increases. Provincial school funding guidelines do not allow for new school construction as long as capacity remains somewhere in a school family. In the fall, Crestwood High School student enrolment is projected to be 683 with a capacity of 933, making the school catchment area ineligible for a new school. An intermediate school at this location would add at least 130 more students to the school body. The board argues this is not only a better use of available space, it also moves the school family closer to their objective of building a new school.
Students have mixed feelings about the move, but many are excited by the prospects, particularly if their siblings already attend Crestwood. Those who are less enthusiastic will require support both at school and at home.
The board has hosted five public meetings during the month to discuss the proposal and the other options under consideration, to hear questions and collect input from affected families. The next step is the presentation of a report from the Resource Committee to review the feedback and formulate recommendations to present to board trustees at the January 28th board meeting where a final decision will be made. KG