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March 20, 2014: The Broadview Rebuild Journey; Road to a new school building is neither short nor easy.

March 20, 2014: The Broadview Rebuild Journey;
Road to a new school building is neither short nor easy.
By Jennifer McKenzie, OCDSB Trustee.

Excitement is abuzz at Broadview Public School as the Minister of Education announced funding for three new OCDSB schools including Broadview. At the point of writing this, we have yet to hear the funding details.

I certainly hope that the Ministry will foot the bill for the entire cost of the three projects and not insist that we use our proceeds of disposition (money we make when we sell off a surplus property.)

The journey to build a new school began for me in 2006. I was surprised to hear that the children in the neighbourhood were scattered and usually bused out of our community to other programs.

The large school that I could see from residents’ doorsteps was sitting empty. The entire senior kindergarten class was fewer than ten children.

After being elected in 2006, I took a tour of Broadview with then school council chair Anne Donald. School council members showed me where the buckets were placed when it rained and how the basement had leaked five successive times and how they had had to raise money for musical instruments repeatedly as they were damaged in successive floods.

The basement classroom with Learning Disabled children was sickening. Those students were moved upstairs once I raised this at the board table, and the classroom has since been voted the worst in Canada.

I knew the school had to be full before the Board would even consider putting money into the infrastructure and Anne and I began a campaign to have Early French Immersion put at Broadview.

This would alleviate many of the concerns I heard from residents and would make Broadview a true ‘community’ school, something never clearly defined at the Board, but which I have taken to mean ‘walkable’.

Our first motion to have EFI placed at Broadview failed. This was very discouraging to the council but I was able to bring it forward as an amendment to our French as a Second Language Review (which I chaired) a year later. It passed by the slimmest of margins.

At the same time, I was also able to add a Middle French Immersion program at Hilson. Both Broadview’s and Hilson’s new program’s successes significantly exceeded staff’s expectations. Broadview has required unanticipated portables and Hilson is using its last available classroom this year.

Now that Broadview and neighbouring schools were full, we could begin the campaign to invest in infrastructure. Broadview was put on a list to receive renovation dollars but the community loudly renounced this and said it must be rebuilt.

This was a brave stance as there hadn’t been a single school rebuild since amalgamation, and neither the Province nor the Board had a process to do this. I told them that it was a battle I was prepared to fight as long as they stood firm.

To have Broadview placed on the capital priority list was the next hurdle. Suburban trustees, who comprise half of the Board, were incensed that an inner city school was intruding on their territory. Staff were strenuously opposed and there were several procedural contortions trying to thwart our efforts.

The worst of these was a ‘press conference’ called by several trustees, the Barrhaven city councillor and MPP calling for Trustee Blackburn’s resignation for supporting the Broadview rebuild. Hers was the suburban trustee vote we needed to place Broadview on the list. After a school tour, she agreed that the school needed to be rebuilt. Even one of the trustees who was part of the ‘press conference’ said that he wouldn’t place his own children at the school.

At a Broadview council meeting a few months later, I was asked if this was really going to bear fruit; I said we should stand firm. Inner city schools deserve funding as much as those in the suburbs and it had become a matter of principle for me.

It had also become increasingly clear that the existing structure (built in at least seven sections) was unworkable, and that it would take more funding to bring it up to standard than it would to build a new school.

This year, as part of our capital prioritization process, Trustee Blackburn asked why some schools on our capital priority list had had a review of adjacent space and others had not.

In particular, in Orleans, many of the neighbouring schools have both spare capacity and declining enrolment.

Her own Barrhaven area had a year long accommodation review and she didn’t feel this was fair. So she made an amendment to the capital list specifying that schools should have to go through a review before they are given high priority.

The Ministry has chosen three schools from our priority list for funding. The first is Trustee Blackburn’s school in Half Moon Bay, the second is Broadview and the third is the OCDSB’s seventh priority in Orleans.

There are still several steps remaining to get across this river to a new school on the other side.

One is securing funding from the Ministry and using our proceeds of disposition as little as possible. There must be considerable consultation with the community particularly in the early stages of school design. The third is deciding what to do with the original section of the school as some parents and community members want to preserve this heritage space (at a minimum, it is preferable to portables).

We are well on the road now to Building a Better Broadview!


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