Downtown schools face overcrowding pressure
Ottawa's public school board says overcrowding at First Avenue Public School in the Glebe has reached a critical point and is proposing that children slated to begin junior kindergarten next year go to a neighbouring school.
School board officials will be meeting with parents at Glebe Collegiate Institute Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss an interim solution to have the JK class of 2011 move to Mutchmor Public School.
The school board says First Avenue has 553 students in 2010 and is at 115.1 per cent utilization. In 2011 it is expected enrolment will jump to 582, or 120.6 per cent utilization.
Mutchmor's enrolment, on the other hand, is expected to decline from 288 students in 2010 to 274.
School trustee Rob Campbell said the problem of overcrowding is also a problem at Hopewell Avenue Public School and Elgin Street Public School, but First Avenue presents the most pressing problems.
"We have to make changes for next September," said Campbell. "The teachers lounge is now a classroom...40 per cent of the library has been turned into a classroom. We'll have to stack the kids like cordwood on the roof if we go much further."
The proposal, which would free up two classrooms at First Avenue, is expected to meet resistance from effected parents who already have students at the school.
Other proposals expected to be discussed include redirecting First Avenue's grade six early French immersion students to Glashan Public School and Hopewell's grades four to six middle French immersion students to Mutchmor or its grades seven to eight middle French immersion students to Glashan.
While many schools across the Ottawa area face overcrowding issues, Campbell said the downtown schools face unique issues because the lack of physical space prevents the use of portables as a temporary measure.
He said the move back to the downtown by many young couples ten years ago has created a surge in population in the area and increased pressures on the schools, as has a growing demand for French immersion programs offered at some schools.
The provincial government's move to all-day kindergarten has also doubled the space those classes will need, he said.
Campbell said the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is expecting to ask the province for more money to deal with the problem as part of a capital plan set to be delivered on Wednesday.
The board will also be looking for funds to put an addition on Viscount Alexander Public School and do major renovations on aging schools like Mutchmor, Elgin Street and Broadview Avenue Public School, where last week the school had to close for a day because boiler issues led to a loss of heat.