With less than two years remaining before classes are scheduled to begin, the public got its first look at plans for a new Riverside Public School on Elmira’s west side.
Representatives of the Waterloo Region District School Board and Kingsland + Architects presented the preliminary designs for the facility to some 50 community members in the current Riverside PS gym Wednesday evening. The new school is scheduled to open in September 2016, replacing the existing one on William Street with a location in the centre of the new Lunor subdivision on Church Street West.
With two major residential development projects on the books (Lunor and Birdland), the WRDSB initiated a school boundary study for Elmira in May of 2012. That study showed that the town’s elementary schools were already well over capacity.
“The board, recognizing the inability of the current Riverside Public School facility and site to accommodate the anticipated growth from the new development within its boundary, negotiated the purchase of a new school site within the development for a replacement,” the report stated.
Not only would a new, larger school be needed, but significant changes to John Mahood PS and Park Manor PS would also be necessary.
The board decided to maintain the existing boundaries while implementing grade organization changes that would see Riverside and John Mahood change from JK-5 to JK-6, and see Park Manor P.S. change from 6-8 to 7-8.
WRDSB controller of facility services Ian Gaudet opened the public meeting, describing the $11 million dollar project as on budget so far.
“This is one of four new elementary schools that we anticipate to have open in the Waterloo Region and ready for students by September 2016,” he said. “This is a unique project that not only has a municipal partner with their adjacent park lands, but also the Waterloo regional child care provider that will be working on side with the school board to create a unique facility for your community and the region that we serve.”
Colin Kingsland of Kingsland + Architects, an experienced school designing firm that has been involved in numerous projects within the region including Floradale Public School and Ayr Public School, led a Powerpoint presentation that outlined the proposed site and floor plans.
He described the design goal as “providing a welcoming space which engages the children.” Highlights included a “grand entrance” and lobby area between the school and the child centre, lots of natural light “with windows low enough that children can see outside when they are sitting and learning in their classrooms,” and a gym that is more than double the current space at Riverside PS.
Following the presentation, the audience was given the chance to ask questions or provide comments.
Numerous concerns were raised.
Ward 1 councillor-elect Scott Hahn, for example, wondered whether the September 2016 opening date was too optimistic, seeing as shovels won’t be hitting the ground anytime soon.
Mel Lajoie, a project coordinator with the WRDSB, replied that the schedule was in accordance with many other schools that have already been completed in the region.
A number of community members questioned whether the new facility’s capacity – 557 students – would be enough to serve the needs of the community.
According to the WRDSB boundary study, they argued, the site will be full within its first two years of operation.
Manager of planning for the WRDSB Dennis Cuomo replied, stating that 550-600 student facilities is the top of the mark for elementary schools in the region, and if the new site isn’t sufficient for the town’s growth, another new school would need to be built to meet the demand.
Despite the misgivings of many in attendance, the project will continue, as discussed, with another public meeting to be scheduled for January.
Check out the presentation slides below:[tnc-pdf-viewer-iframe file=”http://observerxtra.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/A14020_Riverside_Engagement-08.pdf” width=”640″ height=”800″ download=”true” print=”true” fullscreen=”true” share=”true” zoom=”true” open=”true” logo=”true” pagenav=”true” find=”true”]