Growing population puts the crunch on local public schools

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Two classes at Allan A. Greenleaf School in Waterdown are without a room of their own, thanks to damaged and mouldy portables.

A Grade 4 class is being taught on the stage, through the din of gym class, and alongside the room's busy exit, constantly distracted by streams of excited schoolmates, coming or going to gym class.

"It's not a good learning environment. They have so many distractions," said school principal Rick Clark.

A second class has also displaced the Learning Resource Room. Although the school has a program in place, the three Learning Resource teachers have been forced to go mobile, giving extra help or enrichment during classes in the backs of classrooms, or in quiet corners of the library.

The school's problems started back in May, when they were approved for one more portable, to accommodate a bulging population. The school is rated for 530 students, but is currently holding 700, with two existing portables.

"We really needed two more, but we got one," said Clark.

As luck would have it, the board delivered two, to save on long-term transportation and set-up costs, on the assumption the second portable would be needed.

"We're going to use both (this year)," said Clark. "We need the space."

However, that's when the school's luck ran out. The portables were not delivered until the week before Labour Day - just days before school opened. And they weren't ready for use. They needed hydro, a PA system and fire alarms hooked up, as well as city inspections before they could be declared fit for use.

The delay was further complicated by the fact that the portables were used, and came with a host of problems. One had an old, broken floor, and a water-stained ceiling. Last week, that portable was close to approval, and was expected to be functional sometime this week.

However, Clark and his vice-principal noticed a musty odour in the second portable. An investigation by the school board's hazardous materials department revealed a small patch of mould by the door of the structure.

As a result, parts of the portable required dismantling and disinfecting before it could be approved for use.

"Obviously, we're not going to let any kids in there unless we know it's safe," said Clark.

It's expected that the portable will be fit for use in a week or two - five months after approval for the building, and more than a month into the school year.

This isn't a first for Greenleaf. Last year, a class took over the staff room for part of the year, while portables were delivered and hooked up. Although those portables were new, their arrival caused considerable disruption, because the school's electrical system required upgrading to accommodate the extra load of the air-conditioned, electrically heated units.

According to Superintendent of Education Jim Wibberley, it isn't unusual for schools to be put out when waiting for portables. Only a handful of companies in Ontario are qualified to ship and set up the units, which caused the delayed arrival for Greenleaf.

It also takes a considerable amount of time to arrange and perform the inspections - both through the board and the city -required to declare the buildings safe, he said.

"We'd prefer it to be faster. I'd certainly prefer it to be faster," he added.

However, portables are just a symptom of a larger problem - growth in Waterdown is putting pressure on area schools. Mary Hopkins has had a port-o-pack for years, and Waterdown District High School is also running over-capacity. It's just a matter of time before Waterdown will need more space, particularly in Greenleaf's high growth area, said Wibberley.

There's no long term plan and no timeline in place for a new school, he said. The board will watch the numbers, and act when they see fit, which could be years down the road.

However, even if the situation was urgent, the Liberal government has no funding model in place for new school funding, making the application process impossible. One of the government's first actions was to put a moratorium on school closures, in an effort to protect small rural schools from being closed, as in the case of Lynden and Sheffield. Under the old model, funding was distributed based on pupil places - boards needed more students than places to put them to release new funding - which prompted many boards to close smaller, under capacity rural schools, to release funding for new schools.

The Liberals scrapped that model two years ago, but put nothing in its place, resulting in ambiguity and confusion over how a school is funded, said Wibberley.

According to Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough Aldershot MPP Ted McMeekin, the answer to that dilemma is close at hand. The Education Ministry has been working to forge a more flexible funding formula, and it's expected to be formally released any day now, he said.

Clark is hopeful a long-term solution can be found, whether it's a new school or an addition to Greenleaf. In the meantime, he and his staff are working had to provide a great program, despite the challenges.

"It's frustrating," he said of the overcrowding. "I don't think the kids are getting the best education they could, but we do what we can around it."

Growing population puts the crunch on local public schools

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Two classes at Allan A. Greenleaf School in Waterdown are without a room of their own, thanks to damaged and mouldy portables.

A Grade 4 class is being taught on the stage, through the din of gym class, and alongside the room's busy exit, constantly distracted by streams of excited schoolmates, coming or going to gym class.

"It's not a good learning environment. They have so many distractions," said school principal Rick Clark.

A second class has also displaced the Learning Resource Room. Although the school has a program in place, the three Learning Resource teachers have been forced to go mobile, giving extra help or enrichment during classes in the backs of classrooms, or in quiet corners of the library.

The school's problems started back in May, when they were approved for one more portable, to accommodate a bulging population. The school is rated for 530 students, but is currently holding 700, with two existing portables.

"We really needed two more, but we got one," said Clark.

As luck would have it, the board delivered two, to save on long-term transportation and set-up costs, on the assumption the second portable would be needed.

"We're going to use both (this year)," said Clark. "We need the space."

However, that's when the school's luck ran out. The portables were not delivered until the week before Labour Day - just days before school opened. And they weren't ready for use. They needed hydro, a PA system and fire alarms hooked up, as well as city inspections before they could be declared fit for use.

The delay was further complicated by the fact that the portables were used, and came with a host of problems. One had an old, broken floor, and a water-stained ceiling. Last week, that portable was close to approval, and was expected to be functional sometime this week.

However, Clark and his vice-principal noticed a musty odour in the second portable. An investigation by the school board's hazardous materials department revealed a small patch of mould by the door of the structure.

As a result, parts of the portable required dismantling and disinfecting before it could be approved for use.

"Obviously, we're not going to let any kids in there unless we know it's safe," said Clark.

It's expected that the portable will be fit for use in a week or two - five months after approval for the building, and more than a month into the school year.

This isn't a first for Greenleaf. Last year, a class took over the staff room for part of the year, while portables were delivered and hooked up. Although those portables were new, their arrival caused considerable disruption, because the school's electrical system required upgrading to accommodate the extra load of the air-conditioned, electrically heated units.

According to Superintendent of Education Jim Wibberley, it isn't unusual for schools to be put out when waiting for portables. Only a handful of companies in Ontario are qualified to ship and set up the units, which caused the delayed arrival for Greenleaf.

It also takes a considerable amount of time to arrange and perform the inspections - both through the board and the city -required to declare the buildings safe, he said.

"We'd prefer it to be faster. I'd certainly prefer it to be faster," he added.

However, portables are just a symptom of a larger problem - growth in Waterdown is putting pressure on area schools. Mary Hopkins has had a port-o-pack for years, and Waterdown District High School is also running over-capacity. It's just a matter of time before Waterdown will need more space, particularly in Greenleaf's high growth area, said Wibberley.

There's no long term plan and no timeline in place for a new school, he said. The board will watch the numbers, and act when they see fit, which could be years down the road.

However, even if the situation was urgent, the Liberal government has no funding model in place for new school funding, making the application process impossible. One of the government's first actions was to put a moratorium on school closures, in an effort to protect small rural schools from being closed, as in the case of Lynden and Sheffield. Under the old model, funding was distributed based on pupil places - boards needed more students than places to put them to release new funding - which prompted many boards to close smaller, under capacity rural schools, to release funding for new schools.

The Liberals scrapped that model two years ago, but put nothing in its place, resulting in ambiguity and confusion over how a school is funded, said Wibberley.

According to Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough Aldershot MPP Ted McMeekin, the answer to that dilemma is close at hand. The Education Ministry has been working to forge a more flexible funding formula, and it's expected to be formally released any day now, he said.

Clark is hopeful a long-term solution can be found, whether it's a new school or an addition to Greenleaf. In the meantime, he and his staff are working had to provide a great program, despite the challenges.

"It's frustrating," he said of the overcrowding. "I don't think the kids are getting the best education they could, but we do what we can around it."

Growing population puts the crunch on local public schools

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Two classes at Allan A. Greenleaf School in Waterdown are without a room of their own, thanks to damaged and mouldy portables.

A Grade 4 class is being taught on the stage, through the din of gym class, and alongside the room's busy exit, constantly distracted by streams of excited schoolmates, coming or going to gym class.

"It's not a good learning environment. They have so many distractions," said school principal Rick Clark.

A second class has also displaced the Learning Resource Room. Although the school has a program in place, the three Learning Resource teachers have been forced to go mobile, giving extra help or enrichment during classes in the backs of classrooms, or in quiet corners of the library.

The school's problems started back in May, when they were approved for one more portable, to accommodate a bulging population. The school is rated for 530 students, but is currently holding 700, with two existing portables.

"We really needed two more, but we got one," said Clark.

As luck would have it, the board delivered two, to save on long-term transportation and set-up costs, on the assumption the second portable would be needed.

"We're going to use both (this year)," said Clark. "We need the space."

However, that's when the school's luck ran out. The portables were not delivered until the week before Labour Day - just days before school opened. And they weren't ready for use. They needed hydro, a PA system and fire alarms hooked up, as well as city inspections before they could be declared fit for use.

The delay was further complicated by the fact that the portables were used, and came with a host of problems. One had an old, broken floor, and a water-stained ceiling. Last week, that portable was close to approval, and was expected to be functional sometime this week.

However, Clark and his vice-principal noticed a musty odour in the second portable. An investigation by the school board's hazardous materials department revealed a small patch of mould by the door of the structure.

As a result, parts of the portable required dismantling and disinfecting before it could be approved for use.

"Obviously, we're not going to let any kids in there unless we know it's safe," said Clark.

It's expected that the portable will be fit for use in a week or two - five months after approval for the building, and more than a month into the school year.

This isn't a first for Greenleaf. Last year, a class took over the staff room for part of the year, while portables were delivered and hooked up. Although those portables were new, their arrival caused considerable disruption, because the school's electrical system required upgrading to accommodate the extra load of the air-conditioned, electrically heated units.

According to Superintendent of Education Jim Wibberley, it isn't unusual for schools to be put out when waiting for portables. Only a handful of companies in Ontario are qualified to ship and set up the units, which caused the delayed arrival for Greenleaf.

It also takes a considerable amount of time to arrange and perform the inspections - both through the board and the city -required to declare the buildings safe, he said.

"We'd prefer it to be faster. I'd certainly prefer it to be faster," he added.

However, portables are just a symptom of a larger problem - growth in Waterdown is putting pressure on area schools. Mary Hopkins has had a port-o-pack for years, and Waterdown District High School is also running over-capacity. It's just a matter of time before Waterdown will need more space, particularly in Greenleaf's high growth area, said Wibberley.

There's no long term plan and no timeline in place for a new school, he said. The board will watch the numbers, and act when they see fit, which could be years down the road.

However, even if the situation was urgent, the Liberal government has no funding model in place for new school funding, making the application process impossible. One of the government's first actions was to put a moratorium on school closures, in an effort to protect small rural schools from being closed, as in the case of Lynden and Sheffield. Under the old model, funding was distributed based on pupil places - boards needed more students than places to put them to release new funding - which prompted many boards to close smaller, under capacity rural schools, to release funding for new schools.

The Liberals scrapped that model two years ago, but put nothing in its place, resulting in ambiguity and confusion over how a school is funded, said Wibberley.

According to Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough Aldershot MPP Ted McMeekin, the answer to that dilemma is close at hand. The Education Ministry has been working to forge a more flexible funding formula, and it's expected to be formally released any day now, he said.

Clark is hopeful a long-term solution can be found, whether it's a new school or an addition to Greenleaf. In the meantime, he and his staff are working had to provide a great program, despite the challenges.

"It's frustrating," he said of the overcrowding. "I don't think the kids are getting the best education they could, but we do what we can around it."