Parents raise new concerns over possible closure of Elgin school
Kelly Begin, a parent from Elgin Ave. Public School in Simcoe, addressed the Grand Erie District School Board on Monday night over its plan to close Elgin. Board trustees will make a final decision on Oct. 24. DANIEL R. PEARCE/SIMCOE REFORMER
Parents trying to save Elgin Ave. Public School took a new tack Monday night with board trustees and pointed to the uncertain future for the school's special education students.
Many questions remain unanswered about exactly what will happen if the board goes ahead and closes Elgin and ships its students to West Lynn in the south end of Simcoe, the meeting heard.
“There are many unknowns if Elgin Ave. Public School closes, and there are many of us who feel that special education may not be able to move completely to West Lynn Public School,” said Elgin parent Lisa Kitchen, who noted an expanded West Lynn won't have enough spaces to take in all the students from both schools.
“Why would the senior administration support a plan that will not only put 200-plus walking children on a bus, put socio-economically challenged children at further risk, but also relocate at least 16-17 or more special education students and their families and force them to leave their current environment of comfort and acceptance?
“We all could be taking a giant step backwards.”
Senior staff at the Grand Erie District School Board have recommended Elgin be closed as part of a reorganization of five elementary schools in the Simcoe area.
The goal is to get rid of 500 empty pupil places in Simcoe, Port Dover, and Walsh due to declining enrolment.
Trustees will make a final decision on Monday night.
For the past two weeks, delegations of parents from both Elgin and West Lynn have gone to school board meetings to make their case.
Elgin parents have pointed to the lack of detailed plans over the proposed changes, including the cost of busing and the burden the move will place on the low-income families that use Elgin, which is located in the centre of town close to where they live.
Parent Kelly Begin warned the proposed closure could actually leave the board with too few spaces for students down the road.
“Are we willing to risk our children's future on a plan that has no known or published financial information for expansion and busing, and puts certain schools at risk for capacity in 10 years?” she asked.
Parent Yvonne Martin warned of the increased traffic on the sidewalk-less suburban streets around West Lynn if the school is expanded. She pointed out that the road the school is on, Parker Drive, runs into Norfolk Street South at a T-intersection where buses would have to turn left onto a busy street without the benefit of a stoplight.
Also near the intersection, she noted, is a busy Tim Hortons drive-thru lane and bays for receiving produced for the Sobeys grocery store.
In a report to the board, superintendent of business Jamie Gunn defended the plan and said three additional buses would be needed to send Elgin students to West Lynn at a cost of $96,000 a year.
Another option – which board staff had originally suggested – called for West Lynn to be shuttered and for Elgin to be renovated.
If the board went ahead with that idea, it would have to spend more than $500,000 a year in adding portables to either Lynndale Heights or West Lynn to house Elgin students while their school is renovated, a process that could take 18 months or more, Gunn said.
If the board closes Elgin, students can stay there while West Lynn is prepared for their arrival, he said.
The proposal from senior staff also calls for the French immersion program at Walsh to be split with Lakewood Elementary in Port Dover.