Faced with aging facilities and a space crunch, the Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario (CSCNO) is looking at making some changes to its three elementary schools in the communities of Val Thérèse and Hanmer.
École Notre-Dame, located in Hanmer, is attended by children in junior kindergarten to Grade 8, while École St. Joseph, also located in Hanmer, is attended by children in junior kindergarten to Grade 3.
École Ste-Thérèse, for children in grades 4-8, is located in Val Thérèse.
CSCNO chair Andre Bidal said all three schools — which serve around 600 students between them — are around 50 years old, and are starting to show their age.
Board estimates show the buildings will need a collective $25 million in repairs over the next 25 years.
“The cost is getting exorbitant,” Bidal said.
As well, while on paper the schools are undercapacity — at around 65 per cent usage — the board is facing a space crunch because of the need to accommodate daycare and early-learning kindergarten programs.
Class-size caps brought in by the province have also prompted the need for more classrooms, Bidal said.
The board is currently in the process of reviewing the three schools. It has come up with 11 options, and has presented them to parents at two public meetings over the past few months.
While one of the options suggests keeping the status quo, many of the options involve closing one or two of the schools and transferring these students to one of the existing school sites, which would be renovated.
A few of the options also suggest building a new school.
One option would see St. Joseph and Ste-Thérèse closed, and its junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students attending a new school. Grade 7 and 8 students from these schools would attend Notre-Dame.
Another option would see all three current sites closed, and all of the students transferred to a new school.
Bidal explains that building a new school would be something of a problem for CSCNO, as there isn't enough space on two of the schools' lots, and it would be “tight” on the third.
He said they may have to look for an entirely new school site.
So will the province fund these initiatives? Bidal said he understands money is tight for the province right now, and there's a lot of school boards vying for funding.
However, he said he's been told that requests that result in school consolidations are considered the province's “first choice.”
Parents have until Jan. 31 to comment on the school options on the board's website, www.nouvelon.ca.
Bidal said a board committee will then whittle down the options, and make a recommendation to the board. CSCNO trustees will likely vote on the matter in April.