By Jeff Morris
The construction of a public secondary school in Stittsville may bring changes at South Carleton High School, but it won’t lead to the school’s closure.
The province has given Ottawa-Carleton District School Board approval to proceed to award the tender for a new Stittsville Secondary School. The announcement was made through a media Zoom call last week. Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari was joined by Education Minister Stephen Lecce, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Chair and local trustee Lynn Scott, and Stittsville Councillor Glen Gower on the Zoom call.
The $48 million Stittsville school will include spaces for 1,353 students in grades 7-12. The school is scheduled to open in 2023, which is one year later than initially planned.
“The funding for this new school is great news for our community,” said Ghamari. “This investment will provide a quality learning environment and new opportunities for the children of Stittsville.”
The school is the fourth to be announced in the Carleton riding since Ghamari became the MPP. A Riverside South public high school and two elementary schools have also been announced in the riding.
“That is unprecedented advocacy and speed,” Minister Lecce said of the four Carleton schools. “That doesn’t happen normally. This speaks to the need and speaks to the strengths of your local member pushing hard. I want to thank Goldie for being an unapologetic defender in her community.”
Scott said the school has been a priority for the OCDSB since 2006. Despite the delay by a year, she added that “if there’s anything we can do to expedite getting it finished, we will do it.”
Many of Stittsville’s public school board students are bused to South Carleton High School. Scott said that the new school would not have a negative impact on South Carleton, but it could open the doors for some changes.
“We want to make sure that South Carleton remains a healthy and viable school,” Scott said. “We have some long term plans for that. A lot of that depends on having the guidelines released for pupil accommodation reviews.”
Typically, a reduction in students results in a reduction in programming. Scott was confident that South Carleton’s programming would continue to be strong.
“(The new school) certainly will reduce the total enrollment at South Carleton, but we do have a fairly strong enrollment from the rest of the area excluding Stittsville,” she said. “I think that we should be able to continue with very solid programming.”
Scott also eluded to the fact that the villages Manotick and Richmond, both served by South Carleton High School, are seeing ongoing growth.
“The other thing we could look at is going to a Grade 7-12 structure in the longer term,” Scott said. “That’s where the accommodation review guideline comes in because that would make some significant changes to some of our elementary schools.”
Ghamari said that she had been contacted by local residents concerned that the departure of Stittsville students would eventually lead to South Carleton’s closure. She was adamant that the school’s future is not in jeopardy.
“I’m not here to close schools,” Ghamari said emphatically. “I’m here to help build schools and I’m here to help reopen schools.”
Ghamari said not only is she committed to keeping South Carleton open and viable, but she would also like to see the reopening of other schools in the riding that had been closed.
“One school that comes to mind is Munster Elementary School which was shut down by the previous government,” Ghamari said. “That is still on my agenda and that is a growing community – not just in Stittsville but in Richmond and Munster. Richmond’s population is exploding and will do so exponentially in the next few years with all the new homes being built, I would love to see Munster Elementary School reopen. I think that is a fantastic facility it’s ready to go and we have the tools and resources.”
Ghamari also said she and her sister were products of Ontario’s public education system, and that she is a strong believer in the public school system.
“I don’t want anyone to worry about schools being closed,” she said. “The only thing we have to focus on is how fast schools are going to be built or be reopened. That’s my priority as local MPP.”