St. Jean Home and School Association upset over possible expansions to other schools
'We had just hoped they would have utilized what they have before adding on to other schools'
After the Board of the Public Schools Branch voted this week to to ask the province for infrastructure money to expand three schools and replace another, the Home and School Association at St. Jean Elementary says their school has been forgotten.
The Schools Branch wants to expand Stratford Elementary, L.M. Montgomery, and West Royalty schools, as well as replace Sherwood Elementary — all in an effort to address overcrowding at those schools.
But St. Jean Home and School Association says a better solution would be to send some of those students to St. Jean, where there is space.
"The other schools are pretty much surrounding us. So there is no reason why we couldn't accept more children," said Melissa Sellar, co-chair of St. Jean Home and School Association.
Less than 30% capacity
St. Jean is filled to less than 30 per cent capacity — one of the lowest rates in the province.
The school was almost closed earlier this year — but was saved. Now Sellar says, the focus has to be on increasing enrolment, so that it doesn't face the possibility of closure again.
That's why she's disappointed that the Public Schools Branch wants to add more classrooms at other schools.
"We had just hoped they would have utilized what they have before adding on to other schools," Sellar said.
'We have an under-utilized school'
The co-president of St. Jean's Home and School Association, Janna-Lynne Durant, says she doesn't see the sense in building new classrooms elsewhere when her school has space close by.
"We have an under-utilized school. Prince Street's under-utilized, and Parkdale. We could use the students and that could help, you know, the overcrowding issues where they need to build on to these schools to be able to accommodate the overcrowding," Durant said.
She added that she is happy to hear that other schools might get important upgrades, but she doesn't think new classrooms should be on that list.
The Home and School Association says that money could be used for upgrades at St. Jean.
But the Public Schools Branch says it heard other priorities from parents.
'Keep people in their communities'
Parker Grimmer, director of the Public Schools Branch, said that during the school review process it was clear how important it was to keep students from the same areas together.
"There was this real strong sense through the feedback that we got from parents and from the public through the consultation process that for elementary kids there was a real desire to keep people in their communities, which is what the board of directors inevitably tried to do," Grimmer said.
The Home and School Association is worried that if something isn't done to improve enrolment at St. Jean, it could be up for closure again down the road.
They shared their concerns with Grimmer this week. He said the branch will still be making its funding request to government as planned.
Ultimately, it will be up to the province to decide what happens.
Those decisions will be made during the 2018 capital budget plans.
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With files from Kerry Campbell