Parents worry about distancing as school hits 150% capacity

Parents at Westwind Public School are concerned about how COVID-19 distancing measures will even be possible at the Stittsville elementary school given its expected to be at 150 per cent capacity by October.

OCDSB plans to address anticipated overcrowding, though school would remain far over-capacity

Stittsville parent worried about physical distancing at overcrowded elementary school

10 months ago
Duration 1:15
Melanie Aumont, whose two children are in junior kindergarten and Grade 3, says she’s worried about how COVID-19 prevention measures will work at Westwind Public School, which is projected to have 960 students in a building meant for only 628.

A school board's plan to address anticipated overcrowding at a west Ottawa elementary school would only bring enrolment down to around 150 per cent by the end of October, leaving parents worried about how the school will apply COVID-19 measures such as physical distancing.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) said Westwind Public School's enrolment is projected to be 960 students in a building with capacity for 628, which is 153 per cent capacity.

Faster than expected home-building has led to the influx of children in Stittsville, the board said, as well as higher enrolment at Westwind since it also provides early French immersion to students from kindergarten to Grade 6.

Melanie Aumont, whose two sons will start junior kindergarten and Grade 3, said she already feels some fear about opting for in-person learning  in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and worries about how children will be spaced out.

"To then learn that that environment is bursting at the seams is not acceptable," Aumont said.

She learned Tuesday her son's JK class will have 29 students — the maximum — and she doesn't know how big her eldest's class will be.

"I feel desperate. I feel helpless," Aumont said.

She said remote learning would be unmanageable while trying to continue to work with two school-aged children at home.

Melanie Aumont, second from left, said she's concerned the overcrowding at Westwind Public School will make COVID-19 measures more difficult to apply. (Supplied/Melanie Aumont)

Overcrowding a chronic issue

In a statement, the OCDSB said arrangements are being made with consideration of health and safety protocols related to COVID-19, while also referring to a report set to be discussed at the Sept. 14 board of trustees meeting.

The report says Westwind has taken students from the growing community that's meant to be served by the future Fernbank elementary school after similar overcrowding at John Young Elementary School.

The staff report's proposed solution is to direct new students from the Fernbank area to Stittsville Public School starting this October, and will allow accommodations for siblings.

The board said this would reduce enrolment to 918 students at Westwind — still 146 per cent of the building's capacity — and require the use of 12 portables, the maximum that can fit on the site.

Stittsville Public School would then be at 109 per cent of its capacity and require five portables.

'Kids deserve stability'

Aumont said she is frustrated the school board's plan doesn't account for the expected growth in the area.

She said she'd be willing to accept a more extensive redrawing of the Westwind catchment area this fall, even if it means her kids have to move to another school after the school year has already begun.

"Our kids deserve stability. Our kids deserve to be in a safe environment. I hope that some real changes are being made here because what we've seen so far, I feel like, is not good enough," she said.

The OCDSB said the new Fernbank School is scheduled to open in September 2022, with all students from that catchment area between kindergarten and Grade 5 moved there immediately.


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