Parents and students of an overcrowded Bedford elementary school gathered in the school cafeteria Thursday evening to discuss the future of Basinview Drive Community School.
Parents and the Halifax Regional School Board agree the school is severely overcrowded due to development in Bedford that has brought new subdivisions and more families into the area.
The school has a capacity of 579, but currently has about 680 students. School Advisory Council member Allison Garber explained to the meeting of about 60 parents, teachers and students that an enrolment of that size makes Basinview the largest English elementary school in the province.
That growth is also forecast to continue.
"There's a frustration among teachers, there's a frustration among parents that this is a situation that the officials in our riding have been well aware of for a number of years," Garber said after the meeting.
"It just feels as though we're waiting until the alarms are all ringing to actually act. And what kind of impact is that going to have on our kids?"
School principal Ken Marchand explained that staff have already taken measures to avoid violating the fire code capacity in the cafeteria, such as rotating lunch times for some grades and having other students eat in their classrooms.
The staff can no longer hold all-school assemblies in the gym, also because of the fire code.
"It would be great if we could have assemblies, events, activities that involve our entire school. But it's a sheer challenge in terms of safety today," Marchand said in an interview. "We want to ensure that, first and foremost we look at the safety of the children."
Grade 5 student Quinn Lucier said he is also noticing the effect of overcrowding.
"In the morning it's jammed, and there's a bunch of lineups," he said. "It's kind of hard to get up the stairs, from outside up the stairs when it's so crowded, and into the classroom."
Some of the solutions proposed at Thursday's meeting include circulating a petition to the provincial legislature asking the Department of Education to build a new elementary school.
School board chair Gin Yee and board member Jennifer Raven also committed to giving the School Advisory Council information to help consult with the school community in the coming months and determine whether other measures, such as a boundary review, are necessary.
"There are numerous schools in the Bedford area that are significantly overcrowded. It's overcrowded now and it'll be overcrowded in numerous years if we don't do anything," Yee said in an interview.
Two portables were brought to Basinview before the start of this school year to accommodate the overflow. Yee said initially parents were concerned about the state of the portables, but the temporary classrooms have since been renovated.
"I'm no longer hearing those concerns anymore about the conditions of the portables," he said.
Yee said he hopes to find short-term solutions, but he would like to see capital funds from the province for Bedford next year.
Last December, the Halifax Regional School Board sent the province capital requests for a new elementary school and new high school for the area, and is expecting a response this coming December or January.
"When you have an overcrowding situation like that, it screams for new build, new capital dollars," Yee said. "We're working very hard to collaborate with the province to get new capital dollars in that area.
"But of course that's a long-term thing. Getting a school announced and building takes a long time. In my history, it takes about four to eight years to have a new school."
In the last year, the province has been criticized for spending on schools which critics said did not need new funds, including a replacement for J.L. Ilsley in Spryfield and a school in Eastern Passage.