There is a lot of empty classes in area schools and the Lambton-Kent District School Board is hoping to find people to fill them.
But it may not be students who keep smaller schools viable according to Gary Girardi the superintendent in charge of the board’s capital review. Girardi says the problem is demographics. While there has been a slight increase of the number of kids in public schools this year – 132 more in elementary schools, since 2006, enrolment in public schools is down just over 16 per cent. By 2026, the public board is expecting to lose another 1,504 students.
The capital report outlines just home much empty space there is in local schools and what the potential there is to allow other groups to rent the vacant space. The board is open to community partnerships in five area schools.
Dawn-Euphemia is one of the schools the board says could have a community partner. Right now, the school is at 50 per cent capacity with 127 students and four classrooms closed of 11. Dawn-Euphemia needs $2 million in repairs in the next five years. It would cost $6 million to replace.
Lambton Centennial in Enniskillen Township is another school with lots of space available, With just under 200 students, the school is at 59 per cent of its capacity. Five of the fifteen classrooms are closed right now.
Wyoming Public, which will merge with South Plympton next year, will still have excess space according to the report. The administration is recommended the board seek community partnerships in the newly renovated school.
Aberarder School in Plympton-Wyoming could also have community partners. It has 114 students and is using only 57 per cent of its space.
The board’s plan also suggests Mooretown-Courtright Public School has excess space to be rented out with just 99 students and the school at 39 per cent capacity.
Girardi says the province isn’t funding the unused space and is suggesting the boards find partners to use the space. Girardi says the board is “actively seeking partnerships” but it can be difficult. “Whatever moves into a school can’t take away from the learning potential there… or be things that might hinder the safety of students.”
Dawn-Euphemia Council has tried to rent space from the board in the past but found it difficult because of the board’s restrictions.
Girardi acknowledges that has been a problem in the past but the board is trying to be more flexible and find good fits for local schools to keep them active and vibrant places.
“This is our attempt to say we are interested,” says Girardi of the capital plan report.
“We would like to seek out local partnerships.”