Forest Area School Consolidation Approved

Lambton Kent District School Board Director Jim Costello, Chair Jane Bryce and Vice-Chair Elizabeth Hudie discuss the future of Forest area schools. March 21, 2017 photo by Meghan Bond

The Lambton Kent District School Board is moving forward with plans to build a new kindergarten to Grade 12 school in the Forest area.

Trustees approved the consolidation of Aberarder Central, Bosanquet Central, Kinnwood Central and North Lambton Secondary Schools Tuesday night and defeated two “backup” recommendations if funding isn’t approved.

“We are putting all of our eggs in one basket,” says Board Chair Jane Bryce. “It sounds like the trustees have confidence in our application to the ministry and we also have confidence that the ministry will see the importance of building a new school in the Forest area.”

She says residents conveyed a very clear message that a new school was wanted.

“They do want a new consolidated school. They’re excited. They want to see equitable programming for their students and they see this as an opportunity to make a difference in North Lambton,” says Bryce.

The board received five petitions regarding boundaries for the consolidated school, but Bryce says they have no intention to change boundaries at this time.

She says a site for the new school has yet to be determined.

“The only land that we have is at Kinnwood Central and also we have land where North Lambton sits right now, but part of the land is in a flood zone and can’t be developed,” she says. “The St. Clair Conservation Authority has kept that protected.”

Superintendent of Business Brian McKay says applications will now be submitted to the Ministry of Education for the funding of construction and acquisition of land.

“The new school application is for $27.7-million, plus a land purchase on top of that,” says McKay. “If we’re successful on that we will then work with the ministry on what the land acquisition costs would look like.”

McKay says they’ve had ongoing discussions with ministry officials and continue to push the positive impacts of the project.

“Of course we realize that with ministry staff they have a lot of competing priorities. So we are competing against other boards that have good applications as well,” he says.

McKay says they expect to receive a decision on the grant application in mid-May.

The board approved the recommended closure of Aberarder Central, Bosanquet Central, Kinnwood Central and North Lambton Secondary Schools as of July 1, 2020.

Students would be welcomed at the new school in September of that year.