School closures could be on the horizon in CK
The education landscape could be changing in Blenheim, Ridgetown, Tilbury, South Chatham, and Dresden because of declining student enrollment.
On Wednesday, the Lambton-Kent District School Board (LKDSB) said it is looking at four scenarios to consolidate or close schools because student enrollment keeps declining. The school board said enrollment has declined by 2,655 students or 11.2 per cent since 2011-12. The board projects to see 221 fewer students over the next decade.
The school board has 62 schools, but seven elementary schools have under 150 students and three high schools have fewer than 400 students. The overall capacity is at 72 per cent with 8,421 empty pupil spaces, which also means less funding from the province.
The first scenario would involve building a new smaller school for Kindergarten to Grade 12 on either the Blenheim District High School site or Harwich Raleigh Public School. As a result, Harwich Raleigh Public School, W.J. Baird Public School, Ridgetown District High School, and Blenheim District High School would close and students would be relocated.
The second scenario would have the school board build a new consolidated high school at a site to be determined. Blenheim District High School, John McGregor Secondary School, Ridgetown District High School, and Tilbury District High School would close and their students would be relocated to the new school. Grade 7 and 8 students at Ridgetown District High School would also move to Naahii Ridge Public School. W.J. Baird Public School would also close and students would move to Harwich Raleigh Public School in Blenheim.
In Dresden, the school board wants to reconfigure the Lambton-Kent Composite School into a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school, close Dawn Euphemia School and relocate students to Lambton Central Centennial School, Brooke Central Public School, the new Lambton Kent Composite School (Kindergarten to Grade 12), Brigden Public School, or H.W. Burgess Public School.
Zone Township Central School would also close and those students would move to Thamesville Area Central School. Dresden Area Central would close and its students would also relocate to the reconfigured Kindergarten to Grade 12 School at Lambton Kent Composite School. Another option would be to close Dresden Area Central School and relocate students to a reconfigured Kindergarten to Grade 8 school at the Lambton Kent Composite School, relocate Grade 9 to 12 Lambton Kent Composite School students to Chatham Kent Secondary School, Lambton Central Collegiate Vocational Institute, or Wallaceburg District Secondary School.
Closing Dawn Euphemia School and relocating students to Lambton Central Centennial School, Brooke Central Public School, the reconfigured Kindergarten to Grade 8 school at the Lambton Kent Composite School, Brigden Public School, or H.W. Burgess Public School is also a possibility. Closing Zone Township Central School and moving students to Thamesville Area Central School is also under consideration.
A report with current and future enrolment demographics, financial considerations, and school site information was presented at the school board meeting Tuesday night but nothing has been approved and a date to start the accommodation review has yet to be determined. Director of Education John Howitt said public consultation would take place once the process started. Howitt said he doesn’t want to close rural schools and move those students to urban schools.
There’s a moratorium on school consolidations and the school board is not permitted to move forward with its phased approach to addressing empty student spaces in its schools until the moratorium is lifted.
The school board said it will need to make difficult decisions into the future regarding funding and resource allocations because of aging facilities and limited financial resources.
“The LKDSB continues to face ongoing challenges regarding declining enrolment, aging facilities and limited funding and resources,” said Howitt. “We are committed to providing the best possible student programming and supports, while making responsible decisions regarding utilization of facilities and resources based on our current funding realities. The Pupil Accommodation Report continues to emphasize the need to address ongoing challenges facing the LKDSB, including enrolment decline and related funding challenges, as well as aging facilities, while prioritizing student achievement and well-being.”