wooq · 2021-03-04

Making a case for Wasaga Beach High

Mayor Cal Patterson presented a business plan making the case that a high school should be built in Wasaga Beach at a public meeting in Stayner last week.

The final business plan was made public at the final meeting of the accommodation review committee (ARC) on Mon., March 23.

The meeting, attended by more than 200 people, was held to hear public comment before the ARC submitted its final recommendations to Simcoe County District School Board trustees.

The ARC was convened by the board one year ago to find solutions relating to declining enrolment in this area, which included a review of high schools in Elmvale, Stayner, Collingwood, Penetanguishene and Midland.  

The ARC finalized three recommendations at a meeting following the March 23 public meeting.

The recommendation that received the most support is a five-school scenario defined as status quo with upgrades. The committee recommends that all five existing high schools remain open and be renovated appropriately.

A second recommendation for a four-school scenario would see Elmvale District High School remain in operation, one high school remain in Midland and Penetanguishene with two schools to serve the catchment areas of Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Stayner Collegiate Institute. The scenario could include the construction of a high school in Wasaga Beach.

A third recommendation for a six-school scenario would see all five existing high schools remain in operation and a school built in Wasaga Beach.

Patterson presented the business plan during a scheduled delegation at the public meeting.

He would later say that although he was making a delegation to the ARC, he liked to think he was making the presentation to the board of education, made up of school trustees, several of whom were in the room.

The business plan was completed by Hemson Consulting at a cost of $10,000 and was the subject of a special committee of the whole of council meeting on Thurs., March 19, where it received approval.

The 18-page plan was commissioned by the municipality after councillors and staff said they were told by provincial ministers of education and several parliamentary assistants over the years that "decisions with respect to funding of new pupil places would be based on the preparation of a business case taking all factors into consideration", said Patterson in his introduction.

Hemson mirrored the work of the ARC, taking into account the condition of the five high schools included in the review, projected population growth in the relevant communities and busing costs.

Hemson recommends constructing a secondary school in Wasaga Beach to address "the over-utilization of secondary schools within the West Simcoe area," meaning Stayner Collegiate Institute, which is operating at 140 per cent capacity, and Elmvale District High School, which is operating at 169 per cent. The two schools have added portables to expand student capacity.

Hemson found 548 public high school students live in Wasaga Beach – 449 attend Collingwood Collegiate Institute, 87 attend Elmvale District High School and 12 attend Stayner Collegiate Institute. Another 200 Wasaga Beach high school students attend Catholic high schools.  

"Wasaga Beach students currently attending a Catholic secondary school may opt to attend the new public secondary school within their community," states Hemson.

According to Hemson the Education Development Charges Background Study recommends a new high school be constructed within Wasaga Beach.

The study identifies 900 students as a sufficient number to support a new facility. The ministry requires there are enough students to fill 80 per cent of those seats each year starting in the second year.

Hemson claims by building a high school in Wasaga Beach and absorbing the overflow from other schools, taking into account projected growth at Stayner Collegiate, the numbers would average out and all four schools would be at about 85 per cent capacity.

The board considers a school to be prohibitive to repair when its improvement costs equals 65 per cent or more of its total value.

Elmvale DHS is currently facing $1,548,800 in repairs, escalating to $5,803,034 in 2018. It will be deemed prohibitive to repair in 2015.

SCI is currently facing $2,261,847 in repairs, escalating to $6,955,154 in 2018. It will be deemed prohibitive to repair in 2014.

Hemson said if one of the two facilities is closed the capacity at the remaining school and the new school in Wasaga Beach would be 100 per cent.

According to the business plan, Wasaga Beach secondary school, with capacity for 900 students, would cost $21.1 million to build and $3.8 million for land acquisition and servicing.

Hemson recommends the school board apply for funding through a provincial grant program made available to municipalities slated for a lot of growth and to a program made available to school boards that close schools because they reach their prohibitive to repair dates.