Ottawa

Keep portables off sports field, Barrhaven students tell school

An overcrowded Barrhaven high school that's home to a high-level athletics program will soon lose part of its track and sports field to accommodate four new portables.

John McCrae Secondary School will be at more than 130% capacity this fall

Grace Catton, a Grade 10 student at John McCrae Secondary School, started an online petition that's received hundreds of signatures from people opposing a plan to put portables on part of the school's sports field. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

An overcrowded Barrhaven high school that's home to a high-level athletics program will soon lose part of its track and sports field to accommodate four new portables.

John McCrae Secondary School was built for about 1,000 students, but has an enrolment of 1,330 this year. To accommodate the extra students, the school already has a dozen portable classrooms on its property.

The student population is expected to grow by another 30 next year, according to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), and that will require more classroom space.

In a letter from the school, parents have been told that to accommodate four additional portables, the track will be shortened from the regulation 400 metres to 360 metres. The sports field's end zones will also be shortened, and its corners may be trimmed.

Keep portable classrooms off sports field, students say

2 years ago
1:15
Grace Catton, a Grade 10 student, and Helen Crawford, chair of the parent council, spoke to CBC News about the ongoing capacity problem at John McCrae Secondary School. 1:15

'The worst possible place'

Grade 10 student Grace Catton, who started a petition against the plan, doesn't like the idea of trading physical education space for portables.

"This is the worst possible place that you can put it," Catton said. "This is our classroom. You wouldn't put a portable in a gym, you wouldn't put a portable in a math room."

Catton, who attends some of her own classes in the portables, worries shortening the track could jeopardize the school's high-performance athletics program, putting John McCrae students at a disadvantage.

"We take pride in our athletics," she said. "It's really just shocking."

The track at John McCrae Secondary School will be shortened by 40 metres and the end zones on the field will be shallower and trimmed at the corners to make way for four new portables, according to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

'A sea of portables'

Previous school board projections estimated the school's enrolment could rise to 1,527 by 2020.

Helen Crawford, chair of the school's parent council, said she's concerned the OCDSB lacks a long-term plan to manage the capacity issue.

"We know our numbers are going to grow next year. So where does the next set of portables go? And where do the next ones go after that?" she said.

"Eventually, this field could just be a sea of portables and there will be no usable outdoor space at all."

Helen Crawford, chair of John McCrae Secondary School's parent council, said she's worried athletics are being marked 'dispensable' as the school board tries to solve the overcrowding issue in Barrhaven. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Crawford said she's worried over the capacity issue since her two boys entered elementary school in Barrhaven.

"[The OCDSB] bought land to build another school in Riverside South and the school's not built," she said.

Local school board trustee Donna Blackburn said staff considered several locations for the new portables, but the sports field was the best.

"Staff will be looking at other solutions in the future," Blackburn said.

The school board said the possibility of using space at the adjacent Jockvale Elementary School is under consideration for future portables, but won't be an option this fall due to regulatory and technical requirements.

now