Mother calls for action on overcrowded schools

The issue of overcrowding in P.E.I. schools is not solved yet, says the Stratford Elementary Home and School Association.

Lindy McQuillan is concerned about numbers at Stratford and Charlottetown schools

People packed into a classroom at Montague Consolidated for the Public School Branch board of directors meeting Wednesday evening. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The issue of overcrowding in P.E.I. schools is not solved yet, says the Stratford Elementary Home and School Association.

More than 35 people — many from Stratford — packed into a classroom at Montague Consolidated where the Public Schools Branch board of directors meeting took place Wednesday evening. Lindy McQuillan, with the Stratford Elementary Home and School Association, made a presentation outlining concerns about overcrowding continuing into the future. 

"We just don't want to leave anybody with the impression that we're finished," McQuillan said. 

'Beyond overcapacity'

Plans for a two-storey expansion at Stratford Elementary were unveiled Tuesday evening. McQuillan, who has a son at the school and another at Birchwood Intermediate, said she is happy about the expansion, but calls it a Band-Aid solution.

"We are just beyond overcapacity," McQuillan said.

This short-term solution will certainly alleviate that. However, as a community, not only in Stratford, but in the greater Charlottetown community in fact, we have some larger needs, and we need long-term planning in order to have them addressed."

Lindy McQuillan doesn't believe an expansion at Stratford Elementary will be enough to address the issues of overcrowding in the long term. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

During her presentation, McQuillan presented charts she created, showing school enrolment projections from last year's school review process — which she adjusted to account for recent zoning changes — compared with school capacities. She looked at schools in Stratford, as well as both Charlottetown Rural and Colonel Gray high schools.

After crunching the numbers, she said she is particularly concerned about the high schools.

"Immediately you can see that we will have a problem. Overcrowding begins next year," McQuillan said, adding the overcrowding will grow worse over the next five years.

Call for immediate action

During her presentation, McQuillan asked the board of directors to look into her concerns, and take action as soon as possible.

The Public Schools Branch has said it will not make changes to either Charlottetown high school right away. Director Parker Grimmer said time is needed to look into options. 

"The board of directors asked us to — for purposes of understanding what changes we might make — to hold off on any changes to the high school environment for a period of two years, so that we can do exactly the sorts of things that were discussed tonight," Grimmer said. 

Parker Grimmer says making changes to schools takes time. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

McQuillan said she doesn't want to wait to see a solution, given the time any changes would take to implement. She noted that the school review process started in 2016, "and we will not see any relief at Stratford Elementary or Glen Stewart Elementary until September 2019."

Changes take time

Grimmer said he understands McQuillan's concerns, but said that positive changes do take time. 

"A process that started in late 2016 that will allow for a new wing of a building by 2019, some people will say that's a long time," Grimmer said.

"Others would say that's extremely quick, and we have 56 schools in our Public Schools Branch, all requiring certain supports

The members of the board of directors thanked McQuillan for her presentation, and said the issues are on their minds, and they will review her presentation and respond to her directly. ​

About the Author

Sarah MacMillan

Sarah MacMillan is a journalist with CBC P.E.I.

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