The superintendent of the Halifax Regional School Board will look at the problem of overcrowding in schools and identify those that are most in need of renovations or new buildings.
The board passed a motion on Wednesday asking superintendent Elwin LeRoux to prepare a report of the top three schools in need of capital based on overcrowding. They also asked him to prepare a report of the top three highest priority schools in need of capital improvement based on facility condition.
Board member Dave Wright proposed the motion.
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. This is to pick a bite. Let’s start identifying how it is we can move forward,” Wright said during the meeting.
Several schools under the jurisdiction of the school board face overcrowding.
Just last week, Basinview Drive Community School in Bedford, which is part of the Charles P. Allen family of schools, held a school advisory council meeting to discuss overcrowding. The school has about 680 students, but its capacity is 579 students. Moreover, the school has 27 classes but only 23 physical classrooms and uses two portable classrooms.
Board member Jennifer Raven, who represents the South shore/Bedford district, predicts that Basinview school will be one of the top three priority schools in the superintendent’s report.
“The capacity is not slowing down,” Raven said. “We need new options.”
During the meeting, she proposed a motion to have the superintendent prepare a report on interim options for Basinview. It passed.
Allison Garber, who has a son at Basinview, said the school can’t have a school-wide assembly and there are often long bathroom lines.
“We need to prioritize the safety of the children and make sure their learning is not compromised,” Garber, who is also a member of the Basinview School Advisory Council, said in an interview Thursday.
For a long-term solution, the Basinview advisory council is seeking signatures from community members for a petition to build a new school in Bedford. Other Charles P. Allen feeder schools with overcrowding issues include Sunnyside Elementary (Fort Sackville site) and Hammonds Plains Consolidated Elementary.
The Halifax Regional School Board is the largest school board in Nova Scotia, with 48,618 students enrolled as of 2016. It has faced overcrowding before. In 2011, the board dealt with the issue at Bedford South School. As a result the board moved students over to Basinview which, at the time, had space.
In 2014, the board voted to keep Park West School as a P-9 school after it started a boundary review due to overcrowding. The board was going to move the Park West junior high students to Clayton Park Junior High School, however parents were concerned about moving their children.
Raven said she would like to see community consultation and as much transparency in the process as possible. However, she recognizes that this is a contentious issue.
“No matter what decisions get made there’s gonna be parents who aren’t happy because you can’t please everybody,” she said.
The superintendent said his report may not be ready for at least a month. It will be presented to the board, who will discuss it and decide whether to present it to the provincial government for possible funding.