The Overcrowded Situation : LUSENET : Ottawa School Closures : One Thread

Putting a human face on the present situation

West Carleton Township encompasses a geographic area of 600 square kilometres - the largest in the Board. It runs from Arnprior to Kanata (Area 10) and Goulbourn Township (Area 11). There are a number of villages, and the rest of the students live in small subdivisions surrounded by undeveloped land or individual homes along rural roads.

This layout leads to long bus times. With the Board's funding, our principals have managed to get busing times down to less than two hours per day for our elementary students.

Using the Average Daily Enrolment figures, Area 13 has 248 children without school space - 336 students if the Projected 1998 enrolment of 1633 is used. There are 27 portables in the five schools, which gives West Carleton the dubious honour of having the largest proportion of elementary students in portables - about 40 percent.

The new Stonecrest school, which opened in September after 13 years of community action, did relive some pressure for this year, but it will likely have at least three portables next September, due to the addition of Grade 6. The proposed Grade 7/8 extension, presently on hold, is desperately needed to relieve overcrowding at Fizroy Centennial and Huntley schools.

Huntley Centennial in Carp has 10 bus routes, all of which start picking up children between 7 and 7:15 a.m. A young child requires about 12 hours of sleep each night. To achieve this, parents of Huntley's bused students must try to get their children to sleep by 6:30 in the evening. This means no evening activities such as Brownies or Cubs, sports, music lessons or time with the family. Less sleep means a lessened ability to concentrate and learn, and lowers resistance to infection.

The strain this places upon the whole family is immense.

How many people here tonight would be able to get up, washed and dressed, eat breakfast, make lunch, pack all the items needed for the day and be out of the door before 7:00 in the morning?

In the dark. In the cold. To a community bus stop which may be a long walk from your home, without sidewalks or streetlights. We are talking about Junior Kindergarten students here, as well as those up to Grade 8.

Huntley has 16 classrooms in the school and 11 portables. Almost every student in Grades 2 through 6 is warehoused in a portable. A five-year sentence.

Fitzroy Harbour school was built in 1919 with three classrooms. There is no gym or indoor large space, and no library, through there is a place in the basement with books in it. The students used to be bused to another school for library time, but due to cutbacks and overcrowding that school can no longer assist these students.

Apart from the health concerns, what does large numbers of portables do to a school? The school's infrastructure becomes compromised.

Common areas such as the library and gym (where they exist) get stretched beyond the limit, and access is reduced up to half that of an uncrowded school.

As an example, the time required for staff to clear a path of snow and ice to each portable, and then the steps and landings, puts an additional strain on custodial staff trying to cope with the extra cleaning required for so many additional students.

The washrooms at Huntley were built for 396 students, and there are 568 students using them - 30% more than Assumed Ministry Rated Capacity. This leads to major crowding during recess for the 12 girls' toilets, as up to 24 girls must use each toilet stall at recess and lunch. The room is small, and the students from the 11 portables must wear their winter clothes and boots when they go to the washroom. In the crowd small children are not always able to get a turn in time, and as a consequence, wet pants are not unknown.

Fair and equitable this is not, neither does it meet the Board's Guiding Principles from May 1998.

-- Anonymous, November 03, 1998


Hi, my name is Lori Simpson, planning area 2, cwg participant.

I too am extremely concerned about the overcrowding situation in many schools across this province. It is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that parents in the past have had to go to extreme measures to get much needed schools built.

This new funding formula for new schools, introduced by the Harris government makes things much worse. The province has abdicted their responsibility of providing capital funding for new schools -- instead they are telling parents that their local school board now has to go out and get a loan -- the government will provide only a miniscule grant -- and only if there is a shortfall in capacity across the board -- this means that every school must be overcrowded and every child in this region and in this province -- must be subjected to horrendous conditions -- every day -- always.

This government must be made to accept their responsibility and provide capital funding and/or adequate financing that will enable school boards to build the schools that are needed now.

This provincial government's policy that says schools must be closed before new schools will be built is nothing short of extortion (in my humble opinion).

This is a government that is putting kids last.

Take care, Lori

-- Anonymous, November 12, 1998

From Donna Silver, CWG member, Area 4

I have been thinking about your message for some time, and I decided that I have to respond. The gist of your argument centres around the idea that rural people have a more difficult time of it. I will not disagree that you have problems, but you are not alone. Even though I live in the city proper, with all of the advantages that this should offer me in "superior" educational quality, I too am aghast at what our daily lives have become as a result of declining funding at our schools.

We too have to get up in time to get our kids out the door before seven o'clock. My teenager must travel to a downtown school that begins its day at eight o'clock. (Have you ever tried to get a teenager vertical that early, on a daily basis? Not recommended for those wishing to remain sane.) She must navigate rush hour workers while she travels to school, far more dangerous than rambling around on quiet and deserted country roads.

When she arrives at school,she finds herself sitting in portables that are equipped with furniture more suitable to primary grade children, so that none of the students can successfully get their legs under the desks. They are cramped beyond belief into this school, which also shows a deficit space on the books.

But I don't want to belabour these points so much as I wanted to share with others that appalling conditions are not limited to the rural areas. We all have funding problems affecting the quality of our lives, and it will not get better if we try to kid ourselves that 100% capacity will create an even playing field. Let me absolutely clear: IT WILL NOT!

We have to work together, to show the province that their proposal is akin to killing any qaulity of education and community life, not to mention declining property values in areas adjacent to school closures. While we in the city agree that there are circumstances in the rural settings that can make educating your children incredibly difficult with the existing situation, I can assure you that climbing on the bandwagon to close urban schools at the behest of provincial quidelines will create a monster far worse than what we have to endure now. We do not wish to become puppets to the Ministry, people who are ready to turn against their neighbours who "appear" to have a better deal. None of us have a better deal in this proposal.

I urge all reasonable minded people to consider designing the criteria for all Board schools, including all programs and all special use classrooms, including all "soft issues" such as community use of "surplus space", and mostly including accessibility in a timely fashion to a local facility. to do this, the Board must be instructed to return a "NO" position to the Ministry. We all want, deserve and need quality education for all our children, and that is the essential argument across the Board.

Thanks for your time
Donna Silver

-- Anonymous, November 14, 1998

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