The fix to stop overcrowding in downtown-area schools still has a number of hurdles to clear before students can settle in to a new addition to Mutchmor Public School in 2014.
Parents from First Avenue and Mutchmor public schools attended an information session presented by the Ottawa public school board at Mutchmor on Jan. 24. The option to deal with overcrowding in downtown schools, commonly known as the “switch,” was first discussed in 2011. The “switch” would swap programs and school populations between the two Glebe public schools and add 11 classrooms to Mutchmor.
The proposal turned out to be the preferred option among parents and was approved in December 2011. At the time, the goal was to make the move for September 2013. The new proposed timeline is September 2014 and according to the board’s facilities superintendent Michael Clarke, that is a tight timeline.
“The good news is the ministry has approved the project, but there are a number of approvals we need to have through the ministry of the environment, the fire marshal, the ministry of education, the city and our own board and if we can meet all of that there is no concern, but it’s a case of if there is any hold up anywhere, it puts the September 2014 deadline in jeopardy,” Clarke said.
On Jan. 14 the board announced it received a total of $47.9 million from the Ontario government, enabling them to build one new school and make major addition/renovation projects such as the one at Mutchmor possible.
To build the addition, the board requested $7 million. New renovations are estimated at $5 million through a capital grant, $1.3 million for upgrades to the existing building with the remaining $700,000 funded through the ministry of education’s capital reserves. So far they have secured $1.3 million for upgrades to the current school building. They received $4.6 from the capital grant and the $400,000 gap in funding has left certain portions of the project up in the air.
“Until we know how much we have we are not quite certain how much we can build,” Clarke said.
An addition needs to be built to address the overcrowding, but to what scale, Clarke said, is something that still needs to be addressed.
Clarke added the additional $700,000 still needs to be approved by the ministry.
Clarke gave an update on the plan to expand the school to address overcrowding occurring in the downtown area at the meeting and Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects Inc, the firm designing the expansion, presented the preliminary drawings for the addition.
A heritage-designated building, Barry Hobin said the firm would have to have the city’s heritage committee approve the project. The exact cost and amount of funding the board will receive for the project are still uncertain, while the approval of the design of the building must be passed by planning committee and city council. Both these issues are what stand in the way of the project being ready for students in the fall of 2014.
“The time is tight, we will need some cooperation, particularly with the city of Ottawa,” Hobin said.
One parent asked if there was a contingency plan, if the school board could not meet its current timeline.
Clarke could not give a definitive answer.
“As we move through the process we will have a better idea,” he said.
The move would introduce middle French immersion program at First Avenue, allowing Mutchmor to offer junior kindergarten-Grade 6 early French immersion. First Avenue, meanwhile, would offer junior kindergarten-Grade 6 English and gifted programming. The two-storey expansion is planned for the west-side of the building, with the main entrance to the building facing Fifth Avenue. To respect the heritage character of the building, the new addition will be a glass and brick structure, attaching to the existing building.
Clarke said once the expansion is built, there will be a parking issue which will also need to be dealt with. After the expansion, the current number of parking spaces at the school will be 17, but the expanded building will need 43 to address the increase in staff. Those remaining 26 parking spaces would need to be off-site, but close to the school.
Proposals for the parking spaces are being looked at, but Clarke said that plan will be subject to its own public consultation. Options for parking spaces include cutting into the play area at a board-owned park across the street in or imposing on street parking in the area.
The Glebe Community Association president Lynn Barlow attended the meeting, as potential for parking to consume a portion of the play area was raised at a meeting on Jan. 22.
Barlow said the association is interested in participating in the consultation process and will be writing a letter with some suggestions of alternative options.
“There is a need for parking at the school. The question is how can that be addressed? One way would certainly be to put parking on the play yard, but there are other options, such as the new parking garage or parking on the street,” Clarke said. “The other thing we have to keep in consideration is after the expansion there will be more students using the play yard across the street.”
The play yard is used by both Mutchmor students and Corpus Christi School, a school directly across from Mutchmor.
The expansion will be a total of 789 square metres and construction will take about 11 to 14 months. Comments and suggestions can be sent to Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.