(PHOTO: Jennifer Smith (left) and Jenny Guth stand on one of the possible sites for the new school, at the south west corner of Robert Grant and Cope. The two parents have been active organizers in the push for a public high school.)
I’ve been catching up on a few loose ends from last Tuesday’s meeting about building a public high school in Stittsville. Now I’m finally ready to turn in my homework.
Here are some updates on support from politicians, possible locations for the school, and how the Ministry of Education decides what to fund.
SUPPORT FROM QUEEN’S PARK
Seriously, Stittsville is one of the fastest growing communities in all of Ottawa & a new HS is long overdue. Happy to champion it.
— Lisa MacLeod (@MacLeodLisa) May 26, 2016
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councillor Shad Qadri and school board trustees talked about setting up meetings with Ottawa-area MPPs to discuss the issue. The first of those will happen this Friday, when Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod will be meeting with parents and politicians on Friday.
At the request of Qadri, Mayor Jim Watson has also written a letter to Education Minister Liz Sandals to express his support for a public high school in our community.
WHERE WOULD THE SCHOOL BE BUILT?
There are eleven parcels of land in the new Fernbank community set aside for school sites, including three for high schools. Ecole Paul-Desmarais already sits on one of those parcels, and trustee Lynn Scott tells us that the public high school would most likely be at the corner of Robert Grant and Cope.
The land is marked “SS” near the bottom-centre of the map. Right now it’s an empty field on what was once farmland.
The location is not 100% confirmed. As recently as the fall of 2014, the school board was in discussion with other Stittsville landowners about other locations in the community.
(A few people have asked if the potential site is too close to A.Y. Jackson high school in Glen Cairn. Michael Carson, CFO for the OCSDB, told us in 2014 that there’s no minimum distance required between schools.)
WHEN WILL THE PROVINCE DECIDE?
The public board has approved their priority list of capital projects, but it’s up to the Ontario Ministry of Education to decide what to approve, and when.
According to Ministry of Education spokesperson May Nazar, boards will be able to submit their businesses case by July 2016, and funding announcements will be made in the fall.
In 2015-16, the ministry approved $478-million for 56 capital projects across Ontario, including 30 new schools.
“In 2014, we made a commitment to invest $750 million over four years to support school capital projects that reduce excess space. We have already invested $490M in school consolidation projects including $117 million in 2016-17 to build new schools and expand or renovate existing schools across the province,” May told us via email.
My math says that leaves $260-million to spend by 2018. The Stittsville public high school has a price tag of $36.1-million.
HOW ARE PROJECTS PRIORITIZED?
Although a Stittsville public high school may be at the top of the school board’s priority list, the province has its own criteria for deciding what to fund. Here’s an outline that the ministry shared with us about how they decide.
The Capital Priorities program provides boards funding for projects in the following categories:
- addressing accommodation pressures and enrolment growth
- replacing facilities in poor repair
- supporting the consolidation of under-utilized facilities
- providing accommodation for French-language rights holders in under-served areas of the province
The Ministry assesses all proposed projects using various criteria depending upon the category of the project.
- For Accommodation Pressures and French-Language Accommodation projects:
- Assessments will be based on school-level capacity ratings, historical enrolment trends, enrolment forecasts and geographic distribution of students
- Primary consideration will be given to projects in areas where accommodation needs are currently high and secondary consideration to projects in areas where accommodation needs are expected to be high in the next ten years.
2. For Facility Condition and School Consolidation projects:
- Assessments will be based on the projected operating and renewal savings and the removal of renewal backlog needs relative to the project cost
- Priority will be given to projects with the highest expected Internal Rate of Return. This will be calculated using the expected cost of the project compared to the expected savings resulting from the project.
In addition to project specific assessments, the following school board performance measures will also be considered for all Capital Priorities project categories:
- Board’s ability to build to Ministry benchmark costs as evidenced by past projects.
- Board’s ability to deliver projects within target timeframes as evidenced by past projects.
- Board’s history of meeting the Ministry’s capital accountability measures.
- Enrolment and utilization trends at projects of the board which have previously been funded.
- Number of projects the board currently has underway and the status of these projects in relation to approved funding and opening date.
Joint Use Capital Projects:
- The Ministry encourages boards to consider collaborative capital project submissions involving two or more school boards.
- The Ministry will review all joint use projects for funding consideration before evaluating any other submissions. Joint use projects will get first consideration for capital funding.
(via the Ontario Ministry of Education)
Stittsville’s MPP Jack Maclaren wasn’t at last Tuesday’s meeting, but staffer Michael Bailey attended and read a letter that on Maclaren’s wrote to the education minister. Here’s the letter: