Hamilton Road will be a three-school ‘hood for at least another half-decade.
Days away from an election, Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) trustees voted on Tuesday (Oct. 14) to leave Trafalgar, Aberdeen and Ealing public schools alone.
They rebuked the senior administration’s recommendation for the South Central ARC that students be consolidated into a new “mega-school” with room for 650 students at Trafalgar and the other two be closed.
The board managers argued because provincial funding is based on number of pupils enrolled, they couldn’t serve the student population effectively across three separate buildings running at as low as 41 percent of capacity.
The board projected that in 2016 Aberdeen would have 238 students, about 68 percent of its capacity, Ealing 235 (68 percent) and Trafalgar 148 (41 percent). If they had amalgamated, 636 students would have attended Trafalgar in 2016 (92 percent capacity).
The discussion was reminiscent of the recent debate over what to do with Ross and Thames secondary schools, also relatively small facilities with a higher prevalence of special needs, low-income and newcomers to Canada in the student body.
Those students flourish in a smaller setting, and could get lost in a larger pool.
“A mega-school in this community with the demographics involved would cause many students to potentially fall through the cracks and not get the individualized attention they need,” trustee Matt Reid said.
Sheri Polhill said she didn’t have enough information in front of her to decide to close a school.
An emotional Ruth Tisdale, board chair, said after a significant pause that she had to abstain when asked to cast her vote.
“Students along this corridor deserve first-class facilities,” she had said. “It is absolutely disgusting that the only way to get ministry to fund one (to a first-class level) is to close two schools and build one large one.”
Earlier in the same meeting the gallery erupted as the supporters of AJ Baker PS in Kintore, between St. Marys and Thamesford, reacted to the trustees sparing their own school, capping over a year of fervent lobbying.
Once a school has gone through the accommodation review process (ARC), the same beast that felled Lorne Ave. PS earlier in 2014, it can’t be put up for closure again for five years.
Janine Shepherd sat on the South Central ARC, her son a recent graduate of Aberdeen and her daughter still studying there.
“I think it proves the process of the ARC isn’t right,” she said after the vote. “I love all three of those schools. Our kids don’t need brand new. They don’t know brand new.”