Staff at Bluewater is working on a business case to add more room for students in Dundalk.
That’s the start of a process that can include multiple years of submitting that case to the province, which decides where the funding will go.
The case still is being developed, and the plan could take shape as an addition or a near-by stand-alone building, among other options.
For example, a $1.5 million child care addition (a stand-alone building adjacent to the school) was approved this year for Spruce Ridge in Durham adding 39 new licensed child care spaces and two new child care rooms.
Despite unusual drops in attendance during the pandemic, Bluewater board staff also sees the need to add a portable in Dundalk this fall.
The recent staff report said that the five-year use of the two elementary schools is projected to be about 150 percent.
On May 4, trustees received the report recommending that Bluewater submit a business case for capital funding under the 2021-22 Capital Priorities Program.
The business case will be a joint submission with the County of Grey Children’s Services which will also increase child care spaces for children under four.
The board has a five-year facility planning strategy adopted last June.
“Submitting a business case to the Ministry of Education involves a lot of work,” said Southgate/Grey Highlands trustee Jim Dawson.
“With the increase in new home construction in Dundalk, it is incumbent on the board to be prepared for the addition of new classroom spaces.
“The expansion will not occur in 2021, but the plan is to have a business case ready for submission. Even after the business case is approved, there are many steps that need to be taken, and each one takes time.”
BUILD IS LAST OPTION
School boards are expected to explore all other options to deal with the pressure for space before the ministry will consider funding a new build. That includes looking at any unused space at a nearby school, use of portables, and adjustments to school boundaries.
New subdivisions in Dundalk and more people moving from the city to the rural area means that the growth is expected to continue at a “fast rate” in the next several years, the report said.
Surrounding schools don’t have enough room that changing school boundaries could solve the problem. Portables, the report noted, are a short-term option.
Dundalk and Proton Community School and Highpoint Community School already made changes in grade structures in 2019-20.
Switching Grade 3 from Proton to Highpoint “temporarily relieved Dundalk and Proton Community School of the immediate enrolment pressures at that school.”
There is a childcare centre located within Dundalk and Proton Community School now.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald