Public school board aiming for new high school in London, Ont.’s north end – London

A new public high school in the north end of London, Ont., is being considered as the area’s largest school board undertakes a review of balancing student populations.

Trustees with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) heard a report earlier this week underlining a plan to review boundaries and how student populations are balanced across the region.

A main goal of the review is to ease capacity burdens at some overcrowded high schools while attempting to have as many students attend school closer to their homes.

A secondary goal is to use the review as a business case to the Ministry of Education for why funding is needed to support the construction of a new high school.

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Geoff Vogt, superintendent of facility services and capital planning, presented the report to trustees outlining the process of the attendance review.

Speaking with Global News afterwards, Vogt says a new secondary school to serve the board is a high need in the north end of the city.

“That is where the growth in our community has been happening and our secondary schools that exist in the north end are very full,” said Vogt.

“New capital is required to support the growth of our community.”

Vogt could not offer an estimated date of when a new high school could be under construction or even open, saying the potential school is “many years” away from opening its doors.

The review is looking at boundaries for London public high schools — except for H. B. Beal — and a few outside London as they deal with uneven population distribution. Six high schools are over 120 per cent capacity, while three are under 90 per cent capacity, including two below 75 per cent.

The report to trustees notes London’s growth is happening in the north end of the city, part of the reason for a new school proposed for that area. The review will be used to help make a case for funding from the province when the time comes for the new high school.

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Ward 7 Coun. Corrine Rahman says she heard from many residents on the campaign trail last fall about how full schools are in London.

“Especially in the Foxfield area, Old Masonville and Sunningdale, those issues of capacity came up,” said Rahman, who served as a trustee for TVDSB from 2018-2022.

Rahman says a new public high school in or near her ward is needed.

“Having quality educational spaces is something the entire community benefits from,” said Rahman. “In the northwest, not only do we have the need for a new high school, but we also have the need for a new community centre to support our growing population.”

While the business case is a welcomed accessory of the review, the main goal is to balance student enrolment. One of the ways the review will look at balancing student populations is through the possibility of splitting the French immersion options in London from two high schools to three.

The report suggests moving some of the approximately 1,000 French immersion students attending Sir Frederick Banting and Sir Wilfrid Laurier to Clarke Road SS. While this would push Clarke Road over 100 per cent capacity, it would alleviate enrolment pressures at the two existing French immersion locations.

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Staff assured trustees during the meeting the redistribution of French immersion would not impact any student’s ability to complete high school with a full immersion certificate.

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The other two options the review will explore in balancing school enrolment will hinge on if London Central School students are returned to their home schools.

If the status quo remains for London Central, a random selection for students outside its boundary to attend the school would continue until its limit of 1,050 is reached. Medway, Lord Dorchester, and East Elgin would see their attendance areas expand into London.

Students would be returned to their home schools while the board designates each elementary feeder school completely to one secondary school. While north-end schools would face temporary overutilization, the report says a new high school in the near future would alleviate the pressures.

The other option presented would include London Central in students being returned to their home schools. The report states this option would bring a greater balance than keeping London Central as it is currently. Further, it would bring Westminster SS enrolment up to 98 per cent, which the report notes as critical to secure funding from the Ministry of Education.

Vogt added that both options are viable paths to securing the funding.

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The school hopes for trustees to be able to make a decision from the available options and feedback by the end of the school year. However, Vogt cautioned that implementation of the trustees’ decision would not happen until September 2024 at the earliest.


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