STRATFORD, P.E.I. - A plan to build a secondary school in Stratford received what could be a decisive boost on Thursday night.
Applause erupted as the board of the Public Schools Branch voted to back a plan to build a secondary school in the community at a meeting at West Kent Elementary. The board said it would recommend the Province fund construction of the new school but left open the question of whether the school would accommodate grades 7-12 or just grades 10-12. The decision was made after the board identified a need to address overcrowding in Charlottetown high schools, both of which are expected to be overcapacity by next year.
“Education and our children are the most important thing we have,” said PSB board member Harvey MacEwen.
“We've got to make the best education possible for all our children."
Close to 80 parents turned out for the meeting, the culmination of a months-long process of consultation.
Stratford Mayor David Dunphy said he wasn’t sure what to expect going into the meeting.
"We're very happy with the decision," Dunphy said.
"We've been fighting for school infrastructure in Stratford for many, many years. We've had overcrowding for 25 plus years in Stratford for our students, so we feel that it's time to deal with that issue."
Dunphy said the construction of a secondary school in Stratford would offer a long-term solution.
Lindi MacQuillan, a district advisory council rep for Stratford Elementary School, said her initial reaction to the news on Thursday was shock.
"Shocked because we have a history of not coming up with a long-term option. We're constantly coming up with band-aid solutions," MacQuillan said.
"I'm thrilled that they didn't go with a band-aid option, that we're really looking at some solid solutions for the future."
The Board also decided to defer a decision on rezoning students in area elementary schools. Two options had proposed rezoning students from the Orchard Hill/Lewis Point Park or the Queen Street Circle areas from Spring Park Elementary to West Royalty Elementary.
PSB Board member Dale Sabean said the postponement of this decision will allow them to examine enrolment numbers and class composition data more closely.
"We can take the next month or two or three to look at those numbers and come up with the best plan and still have it in place for next September,” Sabean said.
Another option, which proposed rezoning about 63 students living in the North River Road area from West Kent Elementary to St. Jean Elementary, was rejected for the time being due to an expectation that West Kent would not be overcapacity before 2021.
Education, Early Learning and Culture Minister Jordan Brown will have to decide whether to allocate funds from the 2019-2020 capital budget to a new Stratford school. Sabean said this decision could come as early as November.
But a new school in Stratford was not the only recommendation to come from the PSB board. The board also recommended the Minister approve funding for 10 additional classrooms at West Royalty Elementary, an annual $3 million increase in the budget for school capital repairs, a needs assessment of Montague Consolidated and Elliott River Elementary and a needs assessment of schools in the province over 20 years old.