Overcrowding at Vimy Ridge Public School Forces Board to Make Tough Decisions

By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent 

A Findlay Creek elementary school is looking for alternative options to help with overcrowding as enrollment continues to climb. 

Vimy Ridge Public School is looking to transfer its grade seven and eight students to Steve MacLean Public School in Riverside South — roughly 10 kilometers away — according to a report for the Ottawa Carleton District Board’s meeting on Dec. 7. It will be a temporary solution until another school can be built in the area. 

The proposed plan states that grade 7 students would transfer over at the beginning of the fall 2022 school year, whereas the grade 8 students will transfer over a year later in September 2023. 

That would mean in the 2022-2023 school year, Vimy Ridge would accept students from kindergarten to grade six, and would also allow remaining graduating grade eight students to carry on their education there. Then in the 2023 to 2024 school year, the school would only be for students from kindergarten to grade six. This plan would allow for all current grade 7 students at the school to complete grade eight there, before moving on to high school. 

The changeover would increase enrollment at Steve MacLean Public School, and portable classrooms would be brought in. The school would climb from an expected 961 students in 2022 to 1,046 in 2023. Nine portables would need to be built in the first year, climbing to 12 the year after. I’m return, enrollment at Vimy Ridge Public School would reduce by about 100 pupils a year. 

“Ultimately, the alleviation of enrolment pressures in this part of the District would be realized with either the opening of a second elementary school in the Findlay Creek community (as yet unfunded) and/or with the opening of a new Riverside South secondary school (Gr 7-12) which is now scheduled for a September 2024 opening,” the public board said in their staff report. “The attendance boundaries, program offerings and opening grade structures for these new schools would be subject to a broader public consultation process.”

But this measure could also negatively impact Steve MacLean Public School — at least in the interim. With 12 portables needed in the second year to accommodate the students from Vimy Ridge, it would result in the loss of the use of their sports field. The OCDSB has a joint use agreement in place with the City of Ottawa for the sports field, which may need to be suspended while the temporary measures are in place.

Vimy Ridge Public School first opened its doors in 2017 and is only four years old. The capacity then was 684 pupil spaces, but as of this year, they were at 1,081. To accommodate the large influx of students, the Findlay Creek school currently has 17 portables. 

“The enrolment is projected to increase to 1,219 (181% UF) for 2022-2023 and 1,370 (203% UF) for 2023-2024 resulting in the need for 24 and 28 portables for instruction respectively,” the board notes in their memo. “Going beyond 21 portables would most likely result in the loss of the use of the outdoor basketball court.”

Findlay Creek.currently has 5,185 homes, a number which also continues to grow. In 2020, a near decade high of 680 homes were built in the community, “likely accelerating enrollment growth and accommodation pressures at Vimy Ridge Public School,” notes the board. Once complete, the community will have over 7,000 new homes. 

As part of the City of Ottawa’s community development plan, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board has noted the area needs two more elementary schools built to keep up with the growing number of new families moving into the neighborhood. 

In May, the board will submit a capital priority funding business case to the Ministry of Education, requesting that a new school be built with space for 684 kids. A location for the new school has already been found after the OCDSB acquired a piece of land on Kelly Farm Drive — just streets over from Vimy Ridge Public School. 

An advisory group is also being put together this December, and the board plans to host public consultations regarding the movement of students in February. That is also when a final decision by the board will be made.  

A public secondary school for students from grades 7 to 12 is also expected to open in Riverside South, but that won’t be until fall 2024.

(OCDSB Photo)