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School enrolment numbers in Thornbury don't justify expansion: Board official

·3 min read

As the population of permanent residents is on steady incline in the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM), many in the community have been wondering if and when the community will see a new school.

But, according to the local school board, current enrolment numbers do not justify an expansion.

“Based on the information provided to staff, the enrolment numbers are within the capacities available at Beaver Valley Community School (BVCS) in Thornbury,” said Jamie Pettit, communications officer for the Bluewater District School Board (BDSB).

The process of bringing a new school to the community involves an application through the Ministry of Education, upon invitation.

According to Pettit, the metrics used to determine the need depend on which application the school board is applying for.

“It depends on the program,” he said. ”In the past, the age of the building, capital renewal work, and student accommodation have been looked at. Partnerships are viewed favourably.”

He explained that the ministry provides funding for new schools based on current enrolment, which the school board provides every October and March, and short-term outlook.

“It is not necessarily based on the enrolment growth forecast,” he said.

The school board lists BVCS to have been built in 1951 and was most recently assessed by the ministry in 2017.

Current on-the-ground capacity for BVCS is listed to be 542 in the board’s most recent five-year plan.

According to Pettit, BDSB and Simcoe County District School Board staff met with TBM staff in 2019 to review student enrolment projections.

“Simcoe County currently works with Bluewater in determining enrolment projections using historical trends and community specific growth analysis,” Pettit explained.

According to these projections, the enrolment numbers are within the capacities available at BVCS. He added that the installation of three additional portables at BVCS also provided additional capacity to 611 students.

“Interestingly, portables had been in place at BVCS in the 1990s to provide additional capacity to the school before being removed when enrolment numbers decreased,” Pettit added.

TBM CAO, Shawn Everitt recently addressed the issue of school expansion during a council meeting while discussing TBM’s plans to develop a plot of land that the town had previously purchased from the school district.

“There's been lots of hypotheses that there's a big waiting list. There is no waiting list for the BVCS,” Everitt said. “I've heard this a lot. BVCS to-date is not oversubscribed. They still have capacity.”

“[TBM] staff continue to work very closely with the BDSB, as well as the Simcoe school board,” he continued. “We have continually pushed to keep it on the radar to pay attention to what's happening to us here, because we want to be proactive, and we want to have good projections.”

While there are currently no plans in the works for a new school or addition in TBM, there are other developments taking place across the county.

“The new Georgian Bay Community School in Meaford opens in September, a new replacement school is in process for Beavercrest Community School in Markdale [in the Grey Highlands], and Kincardine District Senior School is in the pre-construction phase,” Pettit explained.

The new school set to open in Meaford will be Kindergarten to grade 12 with a total capacity of 1,053 students - 636 elementary and 417 secondary.

Pettit said that although Meaford’s new school has yet to open its doors, there have already been concerns it may require additional portables.

“There has been discussion during open session meetings of BDSB committee of the whole and TBM council that the new school being constructed in Meaford already requires the installation of additional portables due to the influx of students requesting enrolment,” Pettit said.

“In discussions with BDSB staff, no portables have been required at this time.”

Pettit added that the school board has additional applications with the Ministry of Education for expansion in Dundalk, Kincardine elementary, and in Owen Sound at Hillcrest Elementary School.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca

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