The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

A staff report from the Ottawa Carleton Catholic School Board (OCCSB) gives some of the rationale for suggesting closure of St. Elizabeth school. The report is being studied and responded to by school councils and community groups concerned by the implications of such a major disruption in the community.

As reported in the March issue of the Summit, St. Elizabeth school on Admiral Avenue was one of several west-end schools targeted for closure. The action is part of the OCCSB's plan to reduce total school places by over 2100 by next year. The move is in response to the provincial government's orders to reduce excess capacity before money for new schools will be granted.

The staff report provides numerous scenarios for consideration by the trustees, school councils and an Independent Review Panel. Two of the options involve St. Elizabeth.

Option 2B proposes to close St. Elizabeth and transfer all students to St. Mary - St. Thomas Aquinas Campus on Bayswater Avenue. The 330 full-time equivalent (FTE) students from St. Elizabeth would join the 150 FTE students at St. Mary to give a total enrolment of 480 FTE or 99% of the rated capacity of the school.

Currently, St. Elizabeth is only operating at 50% of its rated capacity of 659 students.

The report's enrolment projections indicate relative stability in future enrolment even accounting for the Central Park development. “Some new growth expected in Central Park area of St. Elizabeth boundary could lead to additional enrolment. (However, there are currently only 6 students at St. Elizabeth from the 300 units already built).”

The benefits of the option listed in the report include: reduction in split grade classes, increased opportunities for the integration of students with special needs, greater number of learning opportunities for students (clubs, special events), flexibility for individual support in terms of time-tabling, larger quantity / diversity of equipment / supplies and a larger school budget.

Also noted is the improved opportunity for integration of St. Mary's learning disability special education class.

In terms of potential savings, the report suggests $95,861 in annual savings are possible, including permanent “non-teaching” savings in the areas of principal, secretary, maintenance and operations. These would be offset by the potential for a short-term increase in transportation costs, but these are expected to be reduced over the medium term.

The closure of St. Elizabeth would also “save” $366,000 in facility renewal costs which would have to be spent to maintain the school in operating condition.

Alternative Keeps School Open

On the other side of the ledger, option 3 proposes to close St. Daniel on Maitland Avenue and transfer all the students to St. Elizabeth. The addition of the 207.5 FTE from St. Daniel to St. Elizabeth's 330 FTE would give a total enrolment of 537.5 FTE or 82% of the Ministry capacity.

The benefits of this option are the same as those listed above, as well as the improved opportunity for integration of St. Daniel's primary behaviour special education class.

Potential savings from the move would be $131,605, again including permanent “non-teaching” savings in the areas of principal, secretary, maintenance and operations. Cost avoidance of $687,500 in facility renewal costs was estimated as well.

A decision by the Board's trustees on which options are favoured is expected by the end of this month or early in May. The decision will be preceded by a Special Board Meeting to receive community input. Administration staff will also review the community input and the Independent Review Panel's report and provide final staff recommendations on April 25, 2000.