The public consultation process on the future of St. Agatha Catholic Elementary School drew to a close last week. Now, the decision on whether to close the school is in the hands of the board trustees.
Repairs to the school building could cost the board more than $3 million over the next ten years, but repairs aren’t worth it, according to the provincial government. The school requires an almost complete overhaul, including the replacement of windows, doors, the roof and more of the basic infrastructure.
John Shewchuck, chief managing officer of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, says the province wants to fill the empty spaces in other schools before it decides to invest in repairs, or a new school building. In fact, the board is receiving funding from the province to demolish unused parts of schools that are still in use.
“The cost of demolishing an unused section of a school would actually save money in the long-term by not having to maintain it or clean it,” he said. “It is more cost effective for schools to downsize, but remain open.”
The 82 students currently attending St. Agatha could fit in at either St. Clement Catholic Elementary School in Wellesley Township, or even closer, to Holy Rosary Catholic Elementary School in Waterloo. Both schools have the empty spaces to accommodate St. Agatha students.
On Jan. 24, the school board hosted the last public consultation session on the future of the building and students. Thirty-nine people signed into the meeting, but only three comment sheets were turned in.
Now, it is up to the board of trustees to decide what happens next.
“Holy Rosary is only 6.8 kilometres away despite the fact that it is in Waterloo. The province gave us money to tear down a wing of Holy Rosary School and the school is only 25 years old. Now, it becomes a question of do you spend the $3.3 million to upgrade St. Agatha in hopes that enough growth will come one day, and at the same time, tear off a wing of a 25-year-old school,” said Shewchuck. “That is the process we are going through now.”
The Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) has been meeting since October to get an idea of the different options available to students and their families. Their fifth and final meeting was yesterday, Feb. 1, and now, the decision is being brought to the board room.
On Feb. 27 at 6 p.m., the WCDSB board of trustees will be presenting the final draft of the staff recommendation to close the school and bus students to Waterloo or St. Clements. Anyone who wants to address the board must register as a delegation by Feb. 22. There will be one more meeting on Mar. 6 before the board presents their final decisions at a public board meeting on Mar. 27.