Over-capacity and under-used, aye there’s the rub


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A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.

In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.

The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.

He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.

So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School.
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Of course Don Macpherson, superintendent of student achievement at the board, made that clear two weeks ago in this corner when he advised, “For this September, we will all be at Trudeau. So, we will be left with what can we do to ease the capacity issue at Trudeau, and that’s something we are looking at.”

That’s not to say busing is off the table a year from now.

“Port Stanley is still in the mix,” stressed Bushell on Tuesday, who went on to note the board “needs to reach out to the community” to come up with the best model.Stevenson cmyk

Coun. Linda Stevenson confided that is the option she most favours, adding it’s “five or ten minutes down the road.”

Yeah, if the bus driver is a veteran of the NASCAR circuit.

Keep in mind Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School serves all of Elgin county and for some unlucky Voyageurs, that trip to Port Stanley could mean an epic 70-minute trek . . . each way.

French Immersion was by no means the sole topic of discussion.

The role of Mitch Hepburn Public School — located in a growth area of the city — was briefly on the table.

Bushell advised the board is considering a new school in the east end to take the pressure off Hepburn, whose overflow school right now is also Port Stanley.

The situation at TVDSB high schools in St. Thomas paints an entirely different picture however.

All three are in the throes of declining population and that presents a bleak future for Arthur Voaden Secondary School.

Bushell let it be known the board is looking at a new school to replace Voaden.

Joan Rymal.

Joan Rymal.

Coun. Joan Rymel questioned if that is the reason for “declining maintenance” at the facility.

To which Bushell replied, “it’s a challenging school.”

And then it was on to “the reality” of portables at city schools.

“The ministry funds students, not buildings,” advised Bushell who noted the number across the board is down to around 230 from a high of over 500 not that long ago.

He assured there is no mould in any of the portables and “we are constantly renewing them.”

With 11 of the creatures at Pierre Elliott Trudeau, when can we see a decline in that population, wondered Stevenson.

“I’m confident there will be a solution in the fall,” stressed Bushell, “with the byproduct the portables will be gone.”

However, he added it is more difficult to get ministry funding for a “program school” like Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

And, it is difficult to add on to the French Immersion school when there is empty space in Port Stanley, Bushell cautioned.

Do you get the impression the available options this fall may be very, very limited and not likely to be embraced by the entire school populace?

SCHOOL SAFETY

At Tuesday’s council meeting, members will receive a letter from Ruth Tisdale, Thames Valley District School Board chairwoman, dealing with improving safety in school zones.

Tisdale is asking the city to explore the possibility of lowering the speed limit to 30 km/h in school zones “to ensure the safety of all students and their families.”

If you have driven through these zones as students make their way to school and upon exiting in the afternoon you know many motorists — including drivers of city vehicles — pay no attention to the reduced speed limits already in effect.

And forget the parking restrictions, with the worst offenders parents dropping off or picking up their kids and — in the process — creating dangerous situations.

POINT TO PONDER

In addition to the inevitability of taxes, two things remain constant in this life: garbage and death.

Bob McCaig

Bob McCaig

With the former, we have in our midst a waste management wizard in Bob McCaig.

Is it possible Mr. McCaig may have aspirations to dabble in the second constant?

Could he be the financial backer behind the St. Thomas Cemetery Company’s plan to open a crematorium at a cost of $1 million or so?

It’s a bold undertaking to generate much-needed revenue for the company that operates West Avenue Cemetery and South Park Cemetery, where the crematorium would be located.

Is the possibility of McCaig’s financial involvement the reason some members of council are playing hardball with St. Thomas Cemetery Company manager Lesley Buchanan?

And surely this couldn’t be any sort of personal clash between Mayor Heather Jackson and McCaig, could it?

Has there been previous bad blood between these two?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Glanworth overpass

Glanworth overpass

“They’re not acknowledging the concerns that we’ve raised and they’re not coming up with viable solutions for some of the problems that we’ve made them aware of.”

Jeff Cook, the owner and operator of Mapleview Farms, on the Ministry of Transportation’s plan to demolish the Glanworth Drive overpass at Highway 401.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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