A plan to introduce a grades 7 to 12 high school model in Kanata north was rejected by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board on Thursday, April 5.
Trustees voted 6 to 4 to reject a Kanata north accommodation study recommended by board staff and supported by Kanata trustee Cathy Curry.
The study proposed wide-spread program and grade changes to provide a long-term solution to overcrowding in Kanata north’s elementary schools.
Curry noted the motion was opposed mostly by trustees living in the city’s core, with support coming from only Mark Fisher (Gloucester-South Nepean), Katie Holtzhauer (Innes/Beacon Hill-Cyrville and Lynn Scott (West Carleton-March/Stittsville/Rideau-Goulbourn).
Voting against the motion were: Bronwyn Funiciello (Rideau-Rockliffe/Alta Vista), Shirley Seward (River), Jennifer McKenzie (Somerset-Kitchissippi), Rob Campbell (Rideau-Vanier-Capital) Pam Fitzgerald (College), Theresa Kavanagh (Bay) and Donna Blackburn (Barrhaven-Knoxdale-Merivale).
John Shea (Orleans-Cumberland) expressed support for the motion but was not available during the vote.
“The trustees don’t want to spend capital dollars in Kanata,” said Curry at the end of the board special committee of the whole meeting. “Trustees have been content to shuffle kids around in Kanata again and again.”
Curry predicted the board may have to perform another accommodation review study in five years to address overcrowding.
The school board committee will meet on April 16 to debate a similar plan put forward by staff for schools in Kanata south and an alternate motion for schools in Kanata north put forward by Trustee McKenzie.
The board will make a final decision on April 24.
Staff presented a multi-year plan to reduce overcrowding in Kanata north’s elementary schools, which called for construction of an elementary school, a $4-million addition to South March Public School and a $10-million addition to Earl of March.
Elementary schools in Kanata are now 800 pupil places over capacity, and will increase to as much as 2,000 with projected growth in new developments in Kanata Lakes, Morgan’s Grant, the Hope Side Road lands and the Fernbank development, said staff.
“The situation is such that if we don’t get this money we don’t have a plan B for you,” said Karyn Ostafichuk, a planning manager for the public board.
But several trustees objected to the amount of money staff said was needed to provide a long-term solution to overcrowding in Kanata schools.
“My concerns lie with the large capital outlay,” said McKenzie. “Staff estimate (spending) $30 million to $50 million.”
During a meeting on Monday, April 2, Ostafichuk said the money, spent over several years, would pay for two elementary schools, additions to elementary and high schools, and potentially a new high school.
McKenzie questioned staff’s projection for residential growth in Kanata.
“I don’t think we have a handle on the number of units to be built,” she said.
But the Somerset-Kitchissippi trustee said she agreed a new elementary school in Kanata north should be a capital priority.
Trustee Fitzgerald said she also had qualms with staff’s wish list.
“It strikes me we’re asking a lot for one section of the city,” she said.
Fitzgerald said she also wasn’t convinced of the need to move grades 7s and 8s to a high school.
“I don’t know why we need a 7 to 12 model,” she said. “Parents stay with our board because they like the 9 to 12 model.”
Trustee Shea said trustees shouldn’t base their decisions on geography.
“This is not a question of one end of the city and preferred treatment,” he said. “If the need is there we have to meet that need.”
The grades 7 to 12 model has been proven to work in Ottawa’s Catholic and French schools, he said.
Trustee Scott said that a shortage of 1,000 to 2,000 pupil places was “surely an urgent need.”
“We have shuffled these kids around so many times,” she said. “This has to stop.
The Ontario Ministry of Education is ready to pull the trigger on funding construction of a new elementary school in Kanata north, according to public school board trustee Cathy Curry.
But the Ottawa public school board must first request the money as one of its capital projects priorities before a May 31 deadline and approve recommendations in an accommodation review study in Kanata north, she said.
A build site for the new school has already been identified by board staff, who have been negotiating a potential deal with developers and landowners in a region west of Kanata Lakes.
Staff said they have had “positive discussions with one developer” for a site located somewhere north of Highway 417, near Huntmar Drive.
The board won’t give an exact location of the site until it’s ready to sign a deal.
The board hopes to build a second elementary school in Kanata north, near the intersection of the future realignment of Goulbourn Forced Road and Terry Fox Drive – once the land is fully serviced by the City of Ottawa.