Two public meetings scheduled for proposed boundary review of Primrose Elementary

January 22, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) will host two additional public delegation meetings regarding a proposed boundary review for Primrose Elementary.

During their meeting last Thursday (Jan. 11), the Dufferin County Council received a delegation on the boundary review process for Primrose Elementary from Ralk Mesenbrink, chair of the board.

“Normally we would hope that projections allow us to hold boundary review well in advance, ideally with the decision a full year before any changes to enrollment. However, the situation at Primrose is such we felt we had to act more quickly. In order to make decisions that can take effect in September 2024, we need to have a decision by the board in mid-February to accommodate staffing, changes to transportation and collective agreements,” explained Mesenbrink.

In October of 2023, the Upper Grand District School Board announced in a press release that they would conduct a boundary review to address the accommodation pressures at Primrose Elementary School in Mulmur. 

The rural school, serviced by a private well and septic system, has an operating capacity of 377 pupil spaces. Primrose Elementary has experienced an increase in enrollment in recent years, and the current number of students in the school sits at approximately 580.

The proposed school to accommodate the boundary review is Centennial Hylands Elementary School, which has an enrollment of 413 students and the capacity to accommodate a total of 541 students.

According to the school board, Primrose Elementary has had an enrollment increase of almost 25 per cent, from about 470 students to 590 students, between October 2020 and September of 2023, without any significant residential development.

“Our current projections show enrollment to Primrose will continue to increase if no changes are made. At the same time, the enrollment at Centennial Highlands and Hyland Heights has not increased as much as we expected,” said Mesenbrink.

Since the boundary review announcement, families of students at Primrose Elementary have raised concerns about their children having to relocate schools.

“They don’t want to see another boundary review that separates their kids from their friends only seven years after the last one, where they were forced to move from Centennial Hylands to Primrose,” said Coun. James McLean, Deputy Mayor of Melancthon.

McLean also recommended starting Kindergarten students at another school before moving them as a cohort to Primrose Elementary in Grade 1, as a “less disruptive option that doesn’t separate cohorts”.

Concerns have also been raised by Dufferin County Councillors from Northern Dufferin municipalities, specifically regarding the lack of communication with the municipalities and the school board during the boundary review planning process.

“The thing that concerns me is that I started getting calls from concerned parents before I knew anything from our municipal staff, that this was going on,” said Coun. John Creelman, Mayor of Mono.

“As municipal organizations and governments we have a ton of data that would be very beneficial for the boards to use to make better decisions, and that doesn’t seem to be sought out recently,” said Warden Darren White, Mayor of Melancthon.

Coun. Wade Mills, Mayor of Shelburne, highlighted one specific area of Town information with potential benefit for the UGDSB in the boundary review planning process.

“While it may seem to those looking at the issue in an abstract sense that one easy solution would be to shift kids from an overcrowded school in a rural municipality into a school that isn’t so overcrowded in the Town of Shelburne falls apart when you realize that at this point in time, in the short term, we don’t have the additional wastewater capacity to be able to accommodate more kids that we hadn’t planned on,” said Mills.

The Upper Grand District School Board previously held a public meeting on the boundary review in November 2023, which saw around 3,000 people attend to provide feedback on the plan.

A presentation of the final boundary review report will be given to the UGDSB Finance and Facilities Committee on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. Following the presentation, two additional public meetings will be held on Jan. 30 and Feb. 13 for final feedback on the plan.

Any approvals to the boundary adjustment by the Upper Grand District School will be expected to be implemented for the 2024-2025 school year.

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