Space is becoming tight in some schools within the New Frontier School Board (NFSB).
The council of commissioners opened Policy FCB “Major School or Centre Change” in January due to potential overcrowding in three areas: the four Chateauguay elementary schools (Centennial Park, Harmony, Mary Gardner, and St. Willibrord), Gault Institute in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and the Chateauguay Valley Career Education Centre (CVCEC) in Ormstown. The NFSB has now launched a public consultation in the hope of finding some community-generated solutions.
The policy is enacted in the event the NFSB wishes to make a major change to its three-year plan of allocation and destination of immovables by either maintaining, closing, or changing the deed of establishment of a school or centre. “It is a framework within the board for situations like this,” says council of commissioners chair John Ryan. “The policy lays out a timeline for presenting the situation, getting feedback, and then, based on these suggestions, we come up with a direction to follow in the future.” It gives parents, students, and staff at the affected schools adequate notice that change is coming, while ensuring the council of commissioners considers the impact any decision may have on the communities involved.
“Across the board, enrolment is up,” Ryan says. “It was predicted, but not to this extent,” he admits, while confirming there is room to grow within the Chateauguay Valley Regional and Howard S. Billings high schools, and capacity in the Valley elementary schools. The trend for the four elementary schools in Chateauguay predicts more rapid change. “We have tried to address the population growth,” says Ryan, noting they have already resorted to moving students between schools to relieve some of the pressure. “It is time to look at more permanent ideas,” he says. Gault Institute is also facing potential overcrowding, as more French-speaking families with eligibility are sending their children to learn English.
In Ormstown, there is simply not enough space at the CVCEC to meet the demand for programs. According to the NFSB, over 150 vocational students and 25 employees can be found at the centre each day. The cafeteria seats 64 people, and the parking lot can accommodate 70 vehicles. The carpentry program currently has a minimum one year waiting list, and the nature of the projects within the program means the shops cannot be shared between day and evening groups.
“There is a possibility of offering more cohorts, but there is not enough space,” says Ryan, admitting it is hard to justify asking potential students to put their plans on hold. It is especially difficult knowing graduates from the construction and health services programs can help address urgent labour shortages across the province.
“It is a problem, but it is kind of a good problem to have,” Ryan admits, suggesting he would much rather look for solutions to overcrowding than the possibility of closing schools due to low population. “It is always nice to hear from the community,” he adds.
More information on the policy, the affected schools, and the procedure to submit suggestions can be found online at www.nfsb.qc.ca/major-school-change/. The deadline to submit suggestions is noon on Friday, Sept. 23.