By Charlie Senack, Barrhaven Independent
The Ontario government has announced two new elementary schools will soon be built in the community to help with overcrowding.
The total investment of $34.4 million dollars will see a new Catholic elementary school built in Riverside South, and a new public elementary school in Findlay Creek. Both will include two licensed childcare rooms.
Once built the $15.2 million Riverside South school will house 507 student spaces and 39 licensed childcare spots.
The new Findlay Creek school, 6.3 acres in size, comes with a price tag of $19.2 million. It will include 674 student spaces and 39 licensed child care spaces. Land for the school has already been chosen and will be located at the north west corner of Brian Good Avenue and Solarium Ave, which is south of Earl Armstrong.
Carleton MP Goldie Ghamari announced the news during a press conference at nearby Vimy Ridge Public School on April 21. Since being elected four years ago, Ghamari has fought and succeeded in having nine new schools funded in her riding.
Ghamari said she learned about overcrowding concerns last fall, and then pressured the province’s Education minister to invest more in the community. Having this announcement come six months later, she believes it’s a record.
“Building public schools is one of my top local priorities. I am thrilled that the Ontario Government has approved funding to build a second public elementary school in Findlay Creek, and Riverside South,” Ghamari said. “These are not just investments in bricks and mortar, our government is investing in the future of Ontario’s children by creating modern, state of the art schools so that all children can have a better learning environment in these growing communities.”
Education minister Stephen Lecce was not at Thursday’s announcement, but said in a statement the province is investing nearly $500 million to support new school and child care spaces.
“We are building new schools, building more affordable child care spaces, and building hope and opportunity for Ontario students as they learn in more normal and safer classrooms,” Lecce wrote. “We believe that students deserve to learn in-person in state-of-the-art facilities that are internet connected, accessible, with modern ventilation systems, which is why our government is delivering a major investment that accelerates construction to get it done for parents, students, and communities.”
Schools To Help With Overcrowding
In late 2021 it was announced that Vimy Ridge Public School was considering transferring over their grade 7 and 8 students to Steve MacLean Public School in Riverside South to help with overcrowding they were facing. That would mean kids would be getting their education roughly 10 kilometers away from home.
It was just one of multiple options the Ottawa Carleton District School Board was considering, and it didn’t sit well with parents.
By the 2022-2023 school year, Vimy Ridge is expected to be at around 200 per cent capacity. The school currently has 18 portable classrooms and will be getting five more next school year.
Kaveeta Agwani, who is chair of Vimy Ridge’s parent council and has two children at the school, is excited to see this new school built to help with overcrowding concerns.
“I am a community member who has been watching a fast growing community with only one school at almost twice its capacity and bursting at the seams,” she said.
Agwani was among multiple parents to share their frustrations when the board began debating the transfer of students.
“It came as a shock to everyone,” she said. ‘Though I was glad that the overcrowding was finally being acknowledged, I was not happy about the option of moving them. This would have affected our kids soon enough.”
Aahmed Fawal, Vimy Ridge’s co-parent council chair, was at the breaking ground ceremony for the school in 2016. His two children attend the school and are currently learning in portable classrooms.
“It is not an ideal situation, there is no running water or easy access to washrooms,” he said. “The school yard has been consumed by portables.”
A new public school in Findlay Creek was listed as fourth place on the capital priorities list. This February, Vimy Ridge’s parent council was able to have it moved to first place, resulting in this recent funding announcement.
With thousands of new homes going up yearly in Findlay Creek, it’s one of the fastest growing communities in Ontario, nearing 7,000 homes.
“This is really exciting news and it shows what teamwork can do,” said Vimy Ridge School Principal Cheryl Sevigny. “When Vimy ridge was first built, our school board recognized that we were going to need two schools in Findlay creek just to service all of our students, and now that it has become reality, I’m just so grateful.”
It’s unclear when the two new schools will have shovels in the ground, or when they will open for enrollment. Ghamari said if the Ottawa Catholic school was built a year ago, it was slated to open in 2023.