London

Plans for two new London-area schools cause for relief in Summerside

The Thames Valley District School Board has received approval from the Ministry of Education to tender the construction of a $14-million dollar facility in Summerside, a neighbourhood in the city's southeast end.

The school in Summerside will have space for 556 students and 88 day care spots

The Thames Valley District School Board can start looking for a contractor to build a new $14 million elementary school in Summerside. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

London's Summerside community is one step closer to having its own elementary school. 

Two and a half years after the funding for the project was announced, the Thames Valley District School Board announced Tuesday it had received approval from the Ministry of Education to tender the construction of a $14-million facility.

Jeff Pratt, the board's associate director of education, said the tender process would begin in August and take between six to eight weeks, with hope for construction to start in the fall.

"We would be opening, planning on opening, in September of 2022," he said. 

The long awaited facility will have the space for 556 students, and will also have 88 licenced child care spaces. 

Funding for a school in Summerside was announced by the previous Liberal government in January 2018, along with investments into two other addition projects at Masonville and Tweedsmuir public schools. 

Those projects are already underway.

Pratt said the school board had to work through plans for the school in Summerside with the Conservative government. 

"I'm not sure how [the Ministry of Education] triage[s] projects at their end but we certainly were very anxious in terms of working with them."

Expected to hit capacity

Don Campbell, president of the Summerside Community Club, said the neighbourhood has been pushing for its own public elementary school for about two decades. He got involved seven years ago, when his oldest child was in junior kindergarten.

"I'm relieved. I'm happy to see that it's going forward. I'm excited. I've always been very excited about this project," he said. "It's something our neighborhood needs on many levels. Everybody in the neighbourhood's going to benefit because this will attract more business." 

The new facility is slated to take students from the Summerside community who are currently being bused to Fairmont, Princess Elizabeth, Tweedsmuir and Westminster public schools. 

Campbell expects the school will hit capacity because the board's plan doesn't take into account students in the neighbourhood that might switch out of Catholic or French schools in the area, or kids that are being sent to schools in other parts of the city.

"There [are] parents who have their children [in schools] based on addresses of grandparents or babysitters or uncles, because they don't like the choice between Tweedsmuir, Fairmont, or Princess Elizabeth." 

The board will be able to accommodate more than 556 students by using portables, said Pratt.

Fairmont is eventually going to be closed, with the majority of its students heading to Tweedsmuir once $11.5-million in upgrades and an addition are finished in early 2021.

New school in Belmont

Also announced Tuesday was approval for an $8.7-million school in Belmont, in Elgin County. 

"This school will foster an inviting learning environment and build on everything that this community has to offer," said Meagan Ruddock, one of Elgin County's two school board trustees, in a statement. 

The school in Belmont will have the capacity for 354 students. It will consolidate students from South Dorchester, Northdale Central, Westminster Central and Davenport public schools, the school board said.

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