Advocates for a new public elementary school in Findlay Creek will have to wait a little longer after their coveted project missed out on new provincial school funding.
The province announced on Jan.14 that it was investing $47.9 million to support the building of one new school and four school addition projects within the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.
While he sees the announcement as positive for the school board, Gloucester South-Nepean trustee Mark Fisher said he was disappointed the Findlay Creek project wasn’t considered for funding this time.
“I am a bit disappointed that the provincial government didn’t choose to see this as an immediate priority in the mix of other urgent needs,” said Fisher.
“We have been working for a number of years now to explain to the Ministry of Education the various difficulties we are having across the district.”
Fisher maintained he is still aiming at 2014-15 as the opening date for the new Findlay Creek School.
“I am aware the ministry does see this as something that needs to be addressed,” said Fisher. “The project might be pushed closer to 2015, but we are not in a position where the ministry is saying nothing is going to happen until 2017.”
Currently there are about 250 children living in Findlay Creek who attend public schools outside the community.
The majority of those students currently attend Elizabeth Park Public School.
Parents in the area were hopeful the closure of Elizabeth Park Public in 2017 could speed up plans to build a new public school in Findlay Creek.
“To us it honestly looks like this is not even a priority and as such we will not see a school in Findlay Creek in 2014-2015,” said Sumana Jana, chairwoman of the education committee with the Findlay Creek Community Association.
She said that parents were not pleased with the announcement, adding that they feel rather helpless, because nobody seemed prepared to fight the battle on their behalf.
“As a tax-paying citizen, it is ridiculous that we can’t eve get somebody to reply back to us and tell us what is going on,” said Jana.
“We would wish to have someone from the ministry replying and telling us what plans they have for us.”
Jana said she isn’t convinced the projected opening of the school in September 2014 will happen.
“It took a lot of time for this amount of money to be given,” she said. “There is no way anybody can convince me that in the next 10 months we are going to get another $5 million to build a school here.”
She said the community intends to write a letter to both the school board and the ministry demanding to know why Findlay Creek wasn’t on the list and requesting information on the project’s future plans.
“Are we realistic about expecting our children to be able to attend the school in 2015? It doesn’t look like that right now,” said Jana.
However, Fisher said that the project is currently in the best position possible to move forward.
“When you look at the capital priorities, the first seven or eight projects have now been fully addressed, and that puts us in the queue for the next round of funding in the next cycle,” said Fisher.
“The community and I just need to keep up the pressure on the ministry to make sure that is the case.”
He said he will continue to push all officials at the local level and others that he gets an opportunity to talk to, to let them know how important and urgent the Findlay Creek project is.