While the public board was disappointed that no funds were allocated to a new Avalon school, the French Catholic and English Catholic boards will be expanding in the east end.
A new French Catholic high school is slated to open in 2016 in south Orléans, joining Béatrice-Desloges and Garneau high schools.
Because the land acquisition isn’t finalized yet, the exact location for the school hasn’t been announced. It will be built to accommodate about 800 students.
The announcement was made in December at Béatrice-Desloges school, another French Catholic school in Orléans.
Ottawa-Orléans MPP Phil McNeely said the government will provide $20.6 million in funding for the school.
In a press release, board chair André Ouellette said it will ease pressure Béatrice-Desloges and Garneau high schools.
The English Catholic board will add a new elementary Catholic school just around the corner from Avalon Public School.
On Jan. 23, the board announced there would be a new school in Avalon at 2300 Esprit Dr. to relieve overcrowding at St. Theresa Catholic School. It will serve children from junior kindergarten through Grade 6.
The school will offer a French immersion program and hold about 500 students.
It’s expected to be open in September 2015.
The board said the new school will be unique, with modern technology, including wireless technology and SmartBoards throughout the entire school.
The school’s high-tech design features are similar to the South Nepean school being built on Cambrian Drive, which the Catholic board has touted as “Ottawa’s first school specifically designed for the 21st century learner.”
PUBLIC SCHOOL STILL WAITING
While the east end will get two new schools, both McNeely and English public board trustee John Shea are even more disappointed that a second Avalon Public School – now first on the priority list for the public board – wasn’t allocated funding earlier in the month.
“The contempt that this government has for public school students is appalling – parents should be outraged,” Shea said. I've been working tirelessly over the last three years to see that a new school be built. (This) news is very demoralizing.”
All of the funding announced for the English public board was focused on one new school in Kanata and several expansions in Kanata and other west-end schools.
McNeely said the province should have asked the public board to re-examine their list of priorities to include projects more evenly spaced throughout the city.
Avalon is currently at a 165 per cent of its theoretical capacity while St. Theresa is operating at a 135 per cent capacity; a number expected to drop after the new school is built.
Shea estimates that with increasing numbers and full-day kindergarten, by 2014 Avalon will operate at 182 per cent capacity with 900 students, almost double the number of students it was built for. He said that while St. Theresa has five portables on site, Avalon is using 11.
“The Ministry of Education has repeatedly told school boards that they will only fund ‘shovel ready’ new schools (where) the board owns the land of the future school (and) all the planning has been completed,” Shea said. “I don’t know how the Ontario government can defend their decision making.”
McNeely said the government puts emphasis on the priority list that boards provide, and usually trust boards to make the best funding allocation decisions. The government can ask the board to reconsider their priority list, but that’s rare.
Avalon was listed as sixth on the priority list prior to the funding announcement, which saw the top five projects funded.