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Superintendent's Notebook - December 2013

Space For Our Students

During the past few years, you may have heard about our District’s challenges with overcrowding in some of our schools. These schools began to experience high enrolment because of the unprecedented growth we’ve seen for about a decade now in new and developing neighbourhoods. To give you an idea of how rapid this growth has been – over a ten year span, the number of students living outside the perimeter of Anthony Henday Drive has grown to 30,000 within 46 new neighbourhoods. Based on the schools we currently have and the ones that have been approved for construction, we can only accommodate about 11,000 students.

Needless to say, this rate of growth is difficult to keep up with. In recent years, our Board has continued to advocate for new schools and we’ve done our best to put measures in place to decrease high enrolment numbers and minimize the impact on students. For example, we adjusted and closed boundaries, added modular and portable classrooms and shifted grades to other schools. But still, we need to do more – the current situation isn’t sustainable. Moving forward, we’re focused on developing a long-term District Infrastructure Strategy that will help us make the best use of our space. This strategy will be based on a set of Board-approved guiding Planning Principles, as well as a draft District Accommodation Plan for Schools in New and Developing Neighbourhoods, which is what will take centre stage over the next two months. Accommodation is really about students having a guaranteed space in a school.

We developed the Plan to help us identify schools in new communities with high enrolment, identify schools that could receive students from these new areas and provide possible options to address the overcrowding and space issues. The first step is to look at schools in the north, west, southeast and southwest that are already at or nearing enrolment capacities.

In the coming weeks, we want to ensure communities have the opportunity to understand our challenges and feel informed about what options are being considered in the Plan. We’d like to hear your perspective on the issues. I invite you to visit our district website at epsb.ca, where you’ll find a lot of helpful resources and information. You’ll also have the chance to complete an online survey to share your feedback, and a second opportunity to provide your input in January, when consultation meetings will be held across the city. We’re not preconceiving a solution to any of this. We genuinely hope for thoughtful dialogue and suggestions from staff, students, parents and community members on how we can solve this challenge. This input will help inform the final decisions, which will be shared in mid-February.

Our challenges are great, but I know if we work together, our ability to overcome them will be even greater. I’m confident we’ll find the strategies and solutions that meet community needs, allows us to manage student space effectively and create the best learning opportunities for kids. We can’t lose our way if we remember the overarching goal that drives this work: we are here to support success for all students. This is the core value that’s at the heart of the journey we’re about to begin.