PEI

A tale of two schools: One's half empty, one's extra full

Birchwood Intermediate and Stonepark Intermediate teach the same grades in the same city — Charlottetown — but student enrolment numbers couldn't be more different.

'It's pretty hard to get places cause there's a lot of people everywhere all the time'

Stonepark enrolment is expected to swell to 1,178 students in years to come. The junior high has capacity for only 810. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Birchwood Intermediate and Stonepark Intermediate teach the same grades in the same city — Charlottetown — but  student enrolment numbers couldn't be more different.

Stonepark's enrolment stands at 908 — 112 per cent capacity.

Birchwood has 227, leaving it more than half empty.

Both schools are currently being reviewed by the Public Schools Branch as part of a major study with a view to extensive rezoning and possible school closures.

"I know there's a lot of way underpopulated schools and there's no choice but to probably rezone," said Stonepark parent Eric Broadbent.

"I know some people might not agree, but that's what I think."

Stonepark is located in the north end of Charlottetown, and many of the students it serves come from the fast-growing suburbs of Stratford and area.

Birchwood, downtown, has more students who live nearby and walk to school.

Inside, the differences are stark.

Birchwood School uses just 41% of its capacity and, if left unchecked, will remain virtually unchanged, as Charlottetown's downtown population gets older. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Both schools no longer need their computer labs, thanks to new wireless technology that has put computers in every classroom.

At Birchwood, the old computer lab now sits empty.  At Stonepark, the windowless lab has been converted into classroom space. Stonepark staff say they have two other windowless rooms that have also been re-purposed as teaching spaces.

Parents suggest solutions

Left unchecked, disparities between the two schools will continue to grow.

The Public Schools Branch expects Stonepark will swell to 1,174 students by the year 2022, stretching it to 145 per cent percent over its 810-student capacity.

Birchwood, by contrast, will barely hold its own, dwindling to 221 students by 2022.  It will be using just 40 per cent of its 550-student capacity.

It's kind of hard to move around- Haydyn MacAulay, Stonepark student

Wednesday afternoon, Stonepark students poured out onto the sports field for the Terry Fox Run.  The green space was crowded with hundreds of young people.   

"It's pretty hard to get places cause there's a lot of people everywhere all the time," said Stonepark student Haydyn MacAulay.  "It's kind of hard to move around."

now