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New school for St. Jacobs proposed

A new building to replace St. Jacobs Public School and the closure of Three Bridges PS are under consideration as the school board reacts to shifting demographics.

Original St. Jacobs Public School could be demolished in favour of a brand new school.
Original St. Jacobs Public School could be demolished in favour of a brand new school.

The changes, part of a regular accommodation review of Woolwich and Wellesley townships, could also involve the catchment areas of schools in Floradale and Linwood.

In St. Jacobs, the size and age of the current school has the Waterloo Region District School Board looking at a new building on the existing site. Future repairs and the ability of the structure to accommodate full-day kindergarten are part of the evaluation process, senior planner Nathan Hercanuck said this week.

β€œThere could be a case made for the rebuilding of St. Jacobs Public School. Based on all of these things that the committee feels need to be addressed in St. Jacobs it might make sense to build a whole new school,” he said.

Built in the late-1920s the original schoolhouse has been added onto over the years, and its heritage status may pose problems if the board chooses to demolish it.

The need for a new school may also be tied to a proposal to close Three Bridges PS due to its small size: it accommodates just 85 Mennonite students. The argument is that the board is financing two schools in the same school boundary and the old building is too expensive to maintain.

Should Three Bridges be closed, the schoolhouse built in 1872 would be kept as a surplus property and likely sold.

The board has heard displeasure from the Mennonite community, which is satisfied with the school and would like to keep the property as is. Should the school be closed the WRDSB will likely lose many students to the parochial school system, Hercanuck speculated, as the community made it clear they were unlikely to send Three Bridges students to school at St. Jacobs PS.

Mennonite community members did let the board know that they may be willing to look at Floradale as an alternative.

β€œMajority said they would be more comfortable at Floradale Public School as it has a more rural character than St. Jacobs,” Hercanuck said.

As a result, a look at boundaries between Floradale and St. Jacobs public schools is also on the list of possible changes.

The board will look at modifications to school boundaries in Floradale and Linwood, as some parents have expressed concern about long commutes for students.

Currently the review is in its second stage following a 30-day waiting period after the official announcement, with the passing of a fourth public meeting Thursday night. The third stage will involve the accommodation review committee presenting the finished report to the trustees, who will vote following a 60-day waiting period.

After that, Hercanuck said, the pace of the changes will depend on funding from the Ministry of Education.

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