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Simcoe County schools using 360 portables as classrooms

Enrolment is over capacity and still increasing; ‘The situation...really needs attention from the Ministry (of Education),’ says trustee
Thirteen portables take up a large amount of the greenspace at Angus Morrison Elementary School in Angus.

Public school board trustee Brandy Rafeek took Simcoe-Grey MPP Brian Saunderson on a tour of Angus schools recently, to show him the growing need for capital priority investment in the area. 

And despite being the school board trustee for Adjala-Tosorontio/Clearview/CFB Borden/Essa area, what she saw there still surprised her.

“While there, we saw a school that no longer has any greenspace for the kids to utilize for recess because the yard is full with the maximum number of portables,” said Rafeek.

During Wednesday’s (March 1) business and facilities standing committee meeting of the public school board, Rafeek outlined her experience touring the schools following a discussion on skyrocketing enrolment board-wide. Currently, an Angus elementary school is ranked No. 1 on the most-recent Simcoe County District School Board list of needed capital priorities.

“We heard from staff members that there are not enough toilets for them to use... at break times. Some staff choose to leave the building just to be able to access a washroom at lunchtime," said Rafeek. “That really impacted me, hearing that from them."

The two elementary schools in Angus in the public school board, Angus Morrison Elementary School and Pine River Elementary School, are about a kilometre apart from each other, and are operating at 175 and 165 per cent capacity. One school currently has 10 portables, and the other has 13. Due to both schools being over capacity, some students who live in Angus are bused to Baxter Central Public School.

“The situation there really needs attention from the Ministry (of Education),” said Rafeek.

The example is one of many being experienced county-wide due to rapidly increasing enrolment. At Wednesday’s meeting, public board trustees were also given recent enrolment data from schools across Simcoe County, which was recorded on Oct. 31, 2022.

Across all schools, the board has 56,508 students, accounting for a year-over-year increase of 2.5 per cent or 1,393 students. The only area in Simcoe County that saw a decrease this year was Oro-Medonte/Springwater, which saw a decrease of 39 students overall.

Broken down further, elementary school enrolment totalled 39,483 students, a year-over-year increase of 992 students or 2.6 per cent growth. Secondary school enrolment totalled 17,025 students, a year-over-year increase of 401 students or 2.4 per cent growth.

Over the past five years, elementary school enrolment has increased by 6.1 per cent while secondary enrolment has increased by 8.5 per cent at the public board.

In the past year, two new schools have opened to students within that board, both in Bradford West-Gwillimbury: Harvest Hills Public School and Marshview Public School.

During discussion on enrolment, New Tecumseth trustee Sarah Beitz noted that the board would need to be opening two new elementary schools every year, and one new high school every two years to keep up with the growth rate.

Superintendent of Building and Facility Services Corry Van Nispen noted that growth is spread across the board, which makes it difficult to make the comparison.

“We are using upwards of 360 portables across our system in order to accommodate these students and this growth,” he said.

Orillia/Ramara Severn trustee Jodi Lloyd noted the top three growth school boards across Ontario are Halton, Durham and Simcoe County.

The Simcoe County District School Board has 89 elementary schools and 16 secondary schools within their purview.

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 13 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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