A map shows Leamington area schools part of an accommodation review launched by the GECDSB at the board's regular meeting on December 13, 2016. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Schools Face Closure In Leamington, Forest Glade

The public school board is looking at potentially closing schools in Leamington and Forest Glade.

Mill Street, Gore Hill and MD Bennie elementary schools could be closed as part of a newly approved review looking to reduce 434 empty spaces in the Leamington family of schools — all an effort to save the Greater Essex County District School Board money in light of declining enrolment.

Leamington area trustee Dave Taves has been expecting the review.

“I’ve seen it coming for a couple years,” says Taves. “I’ve been working really hard to try to get it not to happen. Last year, I started the recruitment and retention [program]. I thought if we could get some of the kids we lost to private school back, we could fill the seats up, but everything takes longer than I’d like.”

Superintendent of Accommodations at the Greater Essex County District School Board Todd Awender, seen on December 13, 2016. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

Superintendent of Accommodations at the Greater Essex County District School Board Todd Awender, seen on December 13, 2016. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

The proposed changes could see Mill Street school closed, sending students to Queen Elizabeth elementary school which could potentially see a five-room addition or a complete rebuild.

Another of the proposals would see Gore Hill and MD Bennie consolidated into a new JK-8 school at the MD Bennie site. Part of the proposal would also see a dual-track French immersion program begin at Gore Hill in September 2017 before migrating to the the newly consolidated school.

“They love their little rural school,” says Taves of the Gore Hill families. “Gore Hill saw this longer ago. The Mill Street population probably didn’t see it coming, but I really feel for them because a lot of parents are really attached to that school as well.”

The Forest Glade area schools under review include Eastwood, Parkview and Forest Glade where there are 503 empty spaces.

Administration is proposing Eastwood and Parkview be closed to consolidate the students in a new JK-8 school.

City of Windsor Ward 7 Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk is looking forward to hearing from his constituents on the proposals put forward as part of the approved Forest Glade area review.

“Whenever you’re talking about consolidating or closing schools, there’s obviously some concern,” says Kusmierczyk. “There’s always impact on the community in the neighbourhoods.”

Kusmierczyk thinks the “community hub” conversation is one that should be had during the review process.

“I think there should be room for conversation between the city and the school boards to see how you can maximize utilization of those buildings and see if there are any partnerships that can be organized,” says Kusmierczyk.

The utilization rates of the Leamington family of schools is at 79% and set to drop to 70% by 2026 according to the board. In Forest Glade, the three schools being reviewed stand at 67% utilization before a projected drop to 60% in ten years.

Final decisions on both reviews are set to be made at a special meeting of the board on June 8 after a series of public meetings.