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Public school board trustees to ponder capital plan

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

[PNG Merlin Archive] iStockphoto image of elementary kids in classroom with hands raised

[PNG Merlin Archive] iStockphoto image of elementary kids in classroom with hands raised

Growth pressures will be on the minds of Simcoe County District School Board trustees as they begin to ponder the board’s capital plan.

The plan, which will be discussed at the business and facilities standing committee on Wednesday night, is a guiding document for trustees. It gives them information for future decisions about schools, buildings and accommodation areas around the board’s 86 elementary schools and 15 secondary schools for more than 36,000 elementary students and more than 15,000 high school students.

The county's population in 2006 (the last census data available) was was approximately 437,000 and that is expected to increase to approximately 667,000 by 2031.

An increasing population in the county is not the only issue trustees will be wrestling with as they discuss the capital plan. Other items include new schools (including a replacement for the aging Banting Memorial High School in Alliston, which was built in 1949), accommodation reviews, consolidating schools, properties that have been deemed to be surplus and are to be sold as well as schools which need to be repaired, or may be too expensive to repair.

But many of those issues are related to growth, especially in areas such as Wasaga Beach, Bradford, Alcona in Innisfil and the former Innisfil land in south Barrie.

“Growth is beginning to be a very big challenge,” said John Dance, the school board’s superintendent of facility services. “What we’re seeing in Simcoe County is what York Region experienced probably a dozen years ago.

“We’re in a transition period from where we’ve consolidated and done the closures and the ARCs (accommodation review committees) and those kinds of things, and we’re moving very quickly into a growth phase in specific areas of the county.

"This is the first of the wave,” he said. “It’s really getting everybody’s head around the fact that what we’ve been doing before continues, but that we’re seeing considerable growth in the area of Barrie and pretty much south.”

Land acquired for Barrie from Innisfil in January 2010 will include the new high school at Mapleview Drive East and Prince William Way, which is already in the planning stages, as well as two new elementary schools, which are not yet identified as priorities in the capital plan.

“I know the City of Barrie is extremely excited about being able to start up in the (former Innisfil land) and that’s something taking place very soon,” Dance said, adding determining the need in the new south Barrie land hinges on what the future population there will be.

“That’s a big challenge for us because we can’t keep up necessarily unless we have a capital plan that identifies (these growth areas) to the ministry and we tell them, ‘We see this coming’. We’ve got to have sites and we’ve got to have services and we have to get the building done.

”Our planning department is very good at determining what the yields are, which is the number of students per 100 houses and the types of houses which generate students,” he said. “So the planning department works with the county and the municipalities to know when subdivisions are approved and starting to put shovels in the ground.”

But Wasaga Beach is also on the board’s radar, Dance said.

“Wasaga Beach is an area where we have two really large elementary schools - Birchview Dunes and Worsley - and they are at over-capacity and we’ve started to see consistent growth beyond their capacity,” he said. “Where before we’d see an up or a down (in student population) from year to year, now we’re seeing the growth stay.

“It does show there is growth going on and we’re seeing that in the population of the number of students. That also helps to bolster the case that it’s a growing community with eventual aspirations for a high school.”

New residential growth in the Alcona area is significant and ongoing, Dance said.

“Currently, all schools in the area are over capacity and projected to remain over capacity with increasing reliance on portable accommodation,” he said. “Certain schools are approaching populations that are unsustainable and creating severe site and facility constraints.

“By 2021, the schools in Alcona will be approximately 425 students above capacity.”

Bradford is also seeing pressures on its elementary schools, Dance said, adding that while the enrolment at Bradford District High School has been stable, the town is now “just booming” and elementary student numbers are expected to increase by 1,500 students over the next decade.

In his report to trustees, Dance said staff are currently examining options that include an addition at Bradford DHS or a new secondary school within the planning area.

For more information about the capital plan, visit www.scdsb.on.ca, move to the meetings and events page and click on Jan. 11 to access the entire capital plan.

Area residents can also contact their local trustee by accessing the board’s website.

imcinroy@postmedia.com



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