High school needed: Stittsville parents urge province to support their kids
Published Monday, May 23, 2016 6:16PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, May 23, 2016 6:49PM EDT
A group of parents in Stittsville are ramping up their campaign to get a public high school built in their neighbourhood.
The renewed push comes as the Ottawa Carleton District School Board moves towards making a $36.1 million high school in Stittsville its top priority for capital funding. The proposal has been on the public board's priority list for about a decade but has never received the necessary funding from the Ministry of Education.
"It's hard to understand why there are three public elementary schools in Stittsville and no public high school," said Sherry Fritzshe.
Fritzshe's youngest son, Dominic, is in grade four at Westwind Public School in Stittsville but, like many parents, her other children are bussed to South Carleton District High School 10-kilometers away in Richmond, ON.
"Because there is no public bus, they are stuck at school or we have to take the day off because we work downtown and it's not convenient to take them to appointments," she said.
Stittsville has three public elementary schools that are all at or nearing capacity. There are also two Catholic High Schools in the area.
Instead of commuting many students enroll in the Catholic system. Estimates suggest about 250 students at Sacred Heart High School would attend a local public high school. Grade 7 students Lauren Silverstone and Grace Kasouf said about one third of their grade six class left the public system last year to make things easier on their parents.
"Since some were going to the school for their siblings, and so were their friends, more people went and then it impacted more people to go," said Silverstone.
"I'm thinking of going there only because I have more friends and because I feel like it's a closer place to go to," said Kasouf.
Kasouf's mother, Jennifer Smith, has been behind the push for several years. She said her oldest son just decided to switch into the Catholic system to stay closer to home and his friends.
"There is a huge impact on the community," Smith said. "There is an impact on the kids at school that there is not a public high school. We are seeing a lot of parents are choosing or their parents are choosing to go to Catholic school because it is more convenient.”
Lynn Scott, the school board trustee for the area, said a high school would help reduce the pressures on nearby schools. Stittsville is expected to more than double in size to about 70,000 people within the next decade, as are many of the other suburbs nearby.
"We need somewhere local for these kids to go," she said. "What we really want is to see every Ottawa MPP on board with this because we really want this community to have a high school."
On Tuesday night the OCDSB will vote on its top priorities for capital funding from the Ministry of Education. A Stittsville high school tops that list. Scott said a number of trustees support the move and she expects the priority list to pass without much debate.
Parents, too, hope the school becomes one of the board's top priority. Although the Ministry of Education still has to approve the funding request many parents believe the move is a step in the right direction.
"I want (my kids) to feel like a part of the community," said Heather Massie, whose six-year-old daughter goes to elementary school in the neighborhood. "I want them to have the independence of going to and from high school without relying on my husband and I."
Smith, however, said she still has some reservations. A new school has been high on the priority list before and has never received the green light.
“We keep going up and down the priority list, we keep going up recently and I appreciate the fact that they have given us the number one ranking but I don’t think the folks at Queen’s Park who make the ultimate decision really understand what’s going on here,” she said.”
Tuesday night’s board meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. The Ministry of Education is not expected to ask for the board’s priority list for several more weeks or perhaps months.