January 25, 2018

Consultation on declining school enrolment

The public school board is starting a community consultation process on declining enrolment, with Ross R. MacKay School in Hillsburgh projected to drop to just 64 students – 32 per cent of the school’s capacity – in five years if there is no residential growth.
A public engagement workshop will be held Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Erin Public School gym to explain the Upper Grand District School Board’s Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP) Background Report.
It’s one of five workshops planned in Guelph, Wellington and Dufferin. There will be additional workshops in May, and a final report to board trustees in June.
A new wastewater system is considered crucial to reversing the 
enrolment decline at Erin Public School and Ross R. MacKay School.
The LTAP report sets out two scenarios for the three public elementary schools in the Town of Erin, one with substantial residential growth starting in five years, and the other without that growth. Five years is the earliest point at which construction of a sewer system could start, supporting future housing subdivisions.
“This is only the first step in the process. No recommendations around school closures have even been considered at this time,” said UGDSB Trustee Kathryn Cooper.
“The purpose of this meeting is to examine the background document which speaks to the current declining populations of students in the region, the condition of schools and potential for growth in the community.”
A Public Information Centre on wastewater will be held by the town on Friday, Feb. 2 in the Centre 2000 theatre, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a presentation at 7 p.m. There will be an opportunity for the public to ask questions and make comments.
A series of reports analyzing aspects of the wastewater project can be downloaded from the wastewater section of the town website, erin.ca.
The town’s three public elementary schools have a 2017 combined population of 839. Brisbane has 403 students (90 per cent of capacity), Erin Public School (EPS) has 346 (65 per cent of capacity) and MacKay has 90 (45 per cent of capacity). The low utilization rate at EPS is partly because it is located in a former high school.
Assuming that the town will have the sewage capacity to support new housing in five years, Brisbane is projected to reach 107 per cent of capacity (477 students) in 10 years, EPS to reach 79 per cent (423 students) and MacKay to reach 83 per cent (165 students), for a total elementary population of 1,065.
“It is not known when the Town of Erin will have sewage capacity to support housing development,” says the draft LTAP. The alternate projection without substantial growth shows the total elementary population declining to 756 in five years, and then rebounding slightly to 771 in 10 years.
Utilization at Brisbane would continue to rise, but more slowly, reaching 94 per cent in five years and 101 per cent in 10 years. EPS would decline to 51 per cent in five years and to 47 per cent in 10 years.
 MacKay would decline in five years to 64 students (junior kindergarten to grade 6) with a utilization rate of 32 per cent. The rate would rise slightly to 35 per cent in 10 years.
To get more information on the LTAP process or download a copy of the background document, go to ugdsb.ca/board/planning/long-term-accommodation-plan/