By Tina Comeau
Now that the school board has received impact assessment reports on three elementary schools that are under review, the next official step in the process is the formation of study committees at each of the schools.
In the coming months these study committees will report any matters that they feel are relevant for consideration as the board makes it decisions on the future of these schools.
School board chair Donna Tidd has said that the school board receiving the three reports does not mean these schools are automatically closing. This past year the school board carried out four school reviews and only two of the four schools were closed.
Still, the closure option is one of the options spelled out for all three schools.
The three schools under review are Central, South Centennial and Arcadia. The impact assessment reports that have been filed with the board (and which are available on the board’s website in the section: important documents) deal largely with numbers and costs. Given that these elementary schools are all older buildings, all would require a lot of work in the future. It would cost several million dollars to addressing all of the building deficiencies outlined in the report.
Some of the work outlined in the reports includes such things as exterior work, window replacement, the installation of sprinkler systems, floor tile installation, washroom upgrades and repairs to heating and ventilation systems.
None of the schools have a proper gymnasium.
Still, even with the building shortcomings, all of the schools are able to deliver the Public School Program, which is why keeping the schools open is listed as an option for all three.
In the cases of South Centennial and Central schools, the options for the board are to leave the two schools open or to amalgamate them into a newly-constructed or a retrofitted elementary school.
Amalgamating the two elementary schools into a new or retrofitted building would result in a projected student population down the road of 323 students. The board suggests estimated annual savings from staffing efficiencies would be in the range of $246,308.
Both schools have seen decreases in enrolment over the years. South Centennial went from 179 students in 2006 to 113 students in 2010. However, the five-year projected enrolment between 2012-13 and 2016-17 is only expected to decrease from 116 students to 112.
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At Central, the enrolment dropped from 273 students in 2006 to 206 students in 2010. But enrolment projections see enrolment climbing from 214 students in 2012-13 to 232 students in 2016-17.
When it comes to Arcadia Consolidated School, three options have been laid out:
• keep the school open;
• close the school and relocating the majority of students to Plymouth School and others to a new or retrofitted replacement school;
• or, close the school and sending all students to a new or retrofitted replacement school. (The replacement school options both include South Centennial and Central schools in those scenarios.)
Plymouth School, the report notes, would benefit from sending a majority of Arcadia students to it since it is estimated that by 2016-17 Plymouth will only have a school population of 78 students. Therefore relocating 107 students from Arcadia would increase Plymouth’s school population. In this scenario another 22 students from Arcadia would go to a different school. The report states that estimated annual savings due to staffing efficiencies would be $221,509. From a geographic standpoint there isn’t a lot of travel distance between the two schools, however from an infrastructure standpoint one major area where Plymouth and Arcadia schools differ is Plymouth School has a large gymnasium.
As for the last option to consider for Arcadia School, amalgamating the entire school populations of Arcadia, South Centennial and Central schools would see a projected student population of 452 students in 2016-17.
Arcadia School’s student population only decreased by 13 students over a five-year period from 2006 to 2010, although the enrolment of 199 students in 2012-13 is expected to drop to 146 students in 2016-17.
Meanwhile, while the impact assessment reports prepared by board staff largely lay out things out in facts, figures, dollars and cents, you can expect the work of the school study committees to also touch on the more human and personal sides of the arguments for keeping the schools opened or seeing them closed.