The thought of Quinte closing is upsetting for Katie Soule who proud calls the secondary school home.
The Grade 11 student was the first to speak out in front of a crowd of 100 at a public meeting at Quinte Secondary Wednesday night on proposed changes facing 11 of 16 Belleville area schools. The proposals include some school closures, consolidations and possibly a new high school and elementary school. Similar meetings have taken place in Prince Edward County and Centre Hastings.
In November 2016, the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board revealed a long-term capital and accommodation plan review of 19 of its schools in order to address $250 million in capital renewal needs and declining enrolment. Over the last decade elementary enrolment has declined by 21% and secondary school by 26%. The combined surplus space in the three Belleville secondary schools is 829 student spaces with a combined utilization of 72%. Data shows elementary schools are on average 54 years of age and secondary schools around 60 years old.
CSS is in need of $18 million over the next five years, QSS requires $13.3 million and MSS $7.5 million.
The first and preferred option of two includes: closing Quinte and modifying boundaries so that some students move to Centennial for September 2018; close Moira Secondary School and seek Ministry of Education funding/approval to build a new Grade 9-12 secondary school which consolidates Moira Secondary School and Quinte Secondary School in the east end of Belleville for September 2020.
Speaking on behalf of herself and her peers, Soule admitted there are concerns about transitioning into a new high school.
“My sisters went here so we have a history here and since Quinte is in two reviews it sure looks like it will close for students like me who have made a home here,” Soule expressed to the crowd. Under the second plan Quinte would be closed with renovations and an expansion taking place at Moira.
Superintendent of Education, Trish Fitzgibbon said there is a plan to best assist students at both secondary and elementary levels to ensure smooth transitioning. The plan calls for the transfer of program materials, equipment and school memorabilia from the closing school to the receiving school or schools.
When it comes to the idea of building a new high school in the City’s east end, Gary Parcels, a father of Centennial students and an employee at QSS disagreed.
“Do you know that all of the students from Moira and Quinte will all fit in this building capacity-wise,” said Parcels. “Why would you split two school communities into two separate schools? There’s no parking and room for portables at Moira and portables aren’t conducive to a good learning environment. You have to build a school where the students are. There are 200 new homes going in the east end, there’s 600 going in the west end and more than 2,200 north. If we need a new school it needs to go to the north.”
FitzGibbon said they aren’t anticipating the schools will run over capacity.
Changes to eight elementary schools are under review as well and remain the same under both options. In the plan: Hillcrest School would close and balance students between Park Dale and Prince of Wales schools in September 2017. Also pending Ministry funding and approval, both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria would close with a new facility constructed on the site of the former Sir Winston Churchill School in 2020. Boundaries would be changed to adjust enrolment pressures at Harry J. Clarke Public School. Sir John A. Macdonald would be changed to a K-6 school for September 2017 with Grades 7 and 8 students moved to Susanna Moodie.
Nathan Bruce a parent of children attending Hillcrest called the school a cornerstone of the community as it has been there for over 50 years.
“Nearly 100 percent of our students walk to that school,” he said. “They will not be able to walk to school anymore when they go to Prince of Wales, they will have to be bused. Right now that’s a snow day for everybody else – my kids only missed one day of school this year. How many other people can say that?
Next steps include group meetings by the Accommodation Review Committee on February 15 and March 23. The next public meeting is April 19. The process, expected to span over seven months, will conclude when staff recommendations are presented to the board of trustees on June 19.