NORTH PERTH – The Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB) board of trustees has approved the rollout of a boundary review in the North Perth area. This process involves examining the current school boundaries in Listowel and the surrounding area to determine how the boundaries might be changed, to alleviate the enrolment pressures in local schools. A school boundary is the attendance boundary that determines which students will attend that school, depending on where they live.
“I’m going to differentiate a boundary review from a boundary adjustment,” said Superintendent Cheri Carter. “With a review, it’s basically kind of a formal consultation process about the options. A boundary adjustment is required when you have current or even projected long-term enrolment pressures, so more kids than the school space is built for.”
In North Perth, a region that is projected to continue growing in terms of its school-age population, the current elementary accommodation plan is not sustainable and a boundary review may help alleviate some of the current challenges.
“At our school board we have not undertaken a fulsome boundary review consultation process like this ever,” said Carter. “We have completed informal consultations over minor adjustments.”
As a school board, she said an administrative procedure is necessary to guide the review and one has recently been put in place. It can be viewed online at www.amdsb.ca/ap305.
AMDSB is currently recruiting up to three parents or guardians to join the North Perth Boundary Review Committee (NPBRC) from each of the following schools: Elma Township Public School, Listowel Eastdale Public School, Mornington Central Public School, Milverton Public School, North Perth Westfield Elementary School, North Woods Elementary School and Listowel District Secondary School.
The review is intended to kick off in November 2021 and will wrap up in the spring. Members of the NPBRC will have to commit to two online evening meetings, Dec. 8 and Jan. 19.
The process will be led by an outside consulting firm and once possible solutions are developed, they will be vetted through the NPBRC and the broader community using a feedback process.
Community members interested in joining the committee can fill out a form at amdsb.ca/northperthboundaryreview or call Tara at 519-527-0111 ext. 125, leaving a message with their name, phone number and their child’s school by Nov. 12.
There are two factors that Carter said were taken into account when the decision was made to conduct this review. The first is that it could potentially impact more than two schools and a clear solution is not currently evident. Secondly, because it’s not a simple fix, AMDSB could use help from the community to understand what potential solutions are.
“There are three schools that are over capacity… in the region,” said Carter. “Listowel Eastdale is at 118 per cent. It’s really tight. Mornington Central is at 102 per cent and North Perth Westfield is at exactly 100 per cent. These schools are currently managing their populations by using portables.”
Eastdale has three portables, Mornington Central has two and Westfield has one in use.
Carter said Eastdale is very challenged and is in a situation where non-classroom spaces such as the library and computer labs have been taken over for classrooms.
“That is not a long-term sustainable thing but complicating it even more… our enrolment projections in the region and these three locations, in particular, we expect to see growth over the next 10 years,” she said. “So we are going to have even more of a problem if we don’t address it.”
If boundaries do end up being adjusted, she said it can affect students and their families personally because children can be moved away from close friends and school staff they have built relationships with.
“There is no doubt it is not an easy decision or an easy thing to manage, you know, to deal with as a parent or a family,” said Carter. “This is why we need to go out to the public because we need to find out what makes the most sense for the community.”
One question she said the school board hears all the time about Westfield is that it is a brand new school that opened at 100 per cent capacity.
“It’s been evident in North Perth, Listowel in particular, there’s growth,” she said. “So when you put in an addition or add any square footage to a school, whether it’s a brand new building or an addition at a school, you can’t do that without Ministry of Education approval. So we can’t, as a board, just go and build an addition at Westfield even though the site was set up in a way that it would accommodate an addition.”
Carter pointed out that in some districts, Waterloo Region, in particular, will have a brand new school with a whole bunch of portables right away.
“It is because you can’t add square footage unless, I think the ministry’s definition is, long-term and sustained growth, I think that’s what they call it,” she said. “So I just wanted to address that because a lot of times we get challenged on why don’t we just build an addition, at Westfield in particular.”
That being said, Carter did point out that although space is pretty tight at Eastdale, AMDSB has been pushing for an addition to the school.
“I’ve been pretty public about this,” she said. “We actually put an application to the Ministry of Education last spring for an addition there. We said we have evidence, we can see that the growth at Eastdale is not going away.”
The application was a joint submission with the EarlyON program of Perth County.
“We said we want to do daycare and we want to do classroom addition,” said Carter. “We’re very, very anxious to hear back because that will impact this process, however, it won’t fix the problem because it’s not enough space. It will basically mean we won’t need the portables right now if we were to get the addition… but Eastdale is just going to continue to grow. Even if we get that money we still have to do something I guess is what I am saying.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner