The Carlington Summit
by Lisa Pollard.

The Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board (OCCSB) is considering closing the current St. Elizabeth school building on Admiral Avenue and purchasing the vacant St. Bonaventure school at 1366 Coldrey Avenue as a new site for St. Elizabeth's.

St. Elizabeth's parents first learned of the proposal through a December 20 newsletter. On January 9, OCCSB Superintendent of Planning & Facilities Fred Crystal and Superintendent of Educational Programs Michael Baine attended a school council meeting at St. Elizabeth's to explain the proposal, which was prompted by the Ontario government's school funding formula requiring school boards to eliminate excess pupil spaces. With a current enrollment of 318.5 students and space for 645, St. Elizabeth's operates at 49% capacity.

The OCCSB had considered closing the school in early 2000, but decided not to do so at that time. However, on December 12 the OCCSB Board of Trustees expressed interest in St. Bonaventure, which had been declared surplus by the French Catholic school board (Conseil des ecoles catholiques de langue francaise du centre-est), and which, as a smaller school with 425 pupil spaces, would be filled to 75% capacity by the St. Elizabeth's population.

A feasibility study undertaken by the board concluded that the move would generate savings for the board, even though St. Bonaventure would require close to $800,000 in renovations.

Reaction to the proposal at the January 9 council meeting ranged from enthusiasm at the prospect of an upgraded building and a promising future for St. Elizabeth's, to concern about whether the OCCSB would really carry out significant improvements of the St. Bonaventure building, and about the accuracy of the board's cost-benefit analysis. The school council has also noted the concern of some local homeowners regarding potential future uses of the St. Elizabeth site on Admiral, should the school be vacated.

Public consultation on the proposal was to continue throughout January - an open house for viewing St. Bonaventure was scheduled for January 13, and interested ratepayers may submit written comments to the OCCSB Planning Department up to January 26. Comments will be reviewed and considered in a report to be provided to the Board of Trustees before the end of February. In addition, the OCCSB trustee for St. Elizabeth's, Kathy Ablett, who also attended the January 9 meeting, invites concerned parties to call her at 523-3443 with their comments.