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Portables and ‘multiple boundary changes’ expected in North Oakville for next five years, says public school board

Halton District School Board
Halton District School Board

Rapid new development will continue to add to the pressures faced by Oakville’s already “overutilized” schools, predicts a recent report from the Halton District School Board.

But those pressures will be particularly severe in North Oakville, where portables and boundary changes will dominate the coming years.

The challenges for Oakville schools are outlined in the public school board’s 2022 Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP), which was approved by trustees on June 21.

The town’s 28 elementary schools are currently operating at 101 per cent capacity, says the plan, which plots how the board expects to accommodate students in coming years.

Oakville’s six public secondary schools are currently at 108 per cent capacity.

With development planned throughout the town, schools adjacent to growth areas such as Bronte, Kerr Village, Palermo, Midtown and Uptown can expect to feel the impacts until new schools are built.

But for families in North Oakville, the next five years will be challenging.

Thousands of new homes planned for north of Dundas Street will “contribute significantly to student growth,” resulting in ongoing accommodation pressures in an area already bursting at the seams.

The plan warns residents to "expect multiple boundary changes," which will result in students being shuffled from one school to another as the board juggles supply and demand.

North Oakville's two elementary schools currently serve 2,300 students, with hundreds of them housed in portables. As houses are built, new families continue to arrive. But relief in the form of a new local school is still more than a year away.

With 24 portables on site, Dr. David R. Williams public school has been declared officially full. The school, which opened in 2020, is now redirecting  incoming students to Palermo public school.

Post’s Corner public school, just south of Glenashton Drive in the River Oaks community, is also sending new students to Palermo.

"The rapid development in Ward 7 has resulted in a situation where infrastructure is unable to keep pace with the construction development -- this includes schools," says Oakville councillor Nav Nanda, who has firsthand experience of the problems.

"My own kids are in portables since the schools are overcrowded and with increased population and development,  the overcrowding will likely persist."

The school board predicts that the situation should improve briefly by 2027.

Its long-term plan calls for five new elementary schools and a new secondary school in North Oakville. With funding received from the province, the board is working on two elementary schools and the high school.

Construction started last month on a 788-pupil elementary school at 1235 Wheat Boom Drive. That school is anticipated to open during the 2024/25 school year.

The board is targeting a 2026/27 opening for its new secondary school, to be built at Sixth Line and Burnhamthorpe Road West. Construction could begin as early as this fall, with the board already seeking additional funding to expand the school by four to six classrooms beyond its planned 1,200 student capacity.

Read more: New North Oakville elementary school; New North Oakville high school

Architectural work is underway on another new 788-pupil elementary school to be built east of Sixth Line. Slated to open in 2026/27, the board will be asking the province for more cash to add six more classrooms that could house 138 extra students.

Once those new buildings open, Oakville’s elementary schools will drop to 93 per cent capacity and its secondary schools to 92 per cent capacity.

But ongoing growth will make the relief temporary, with schools again in a state of overcapacity by 2035.

Parents are frustrated and skeptical

The situation has Oakville parents feeling frustrated about the impact on their kids. Some are also skeptical about the accuracy of board projections, based on the community trends they are seeing.

In feedback to the board, parents said:

  • Boundary changes are splitting up kids in the same family
  • Timelines are too long in providing new schools, with delays affecting families
  • Schools are overcrowded and have too many portables
  • The board should limit the number of moves for elementary students
  • Renovation issues are impacting school experience
  • There isn’t enough detailed information about school construction

Satisfaction with the plan is low in many areas of the town, according to statistics gathered by the board.

Halton District School Board
Halton District School Board
Oakville accommodation priorities

Short term (2023-2024)

  • Determine boundaries for two new North Oakville elementary schools.
  • Redirect students from Post’s Corners to Palermo.
  • Launch study to consider new urban school for Midtown area.
  • Review projections and need for a school north of Burnhamthorpe Road.

Medium term (2025-2027)

  • Determine boundaries for new North Oakville secondary school.
  • Consider the need for a school in Bronte Green area. The board has until March 2027 to purchase the reserved school lot or the developer will have the right to build housing on the site.
  • Reduce surplus pupil places in southwest Oakville by “right-sizing/consolidating empty classrooms.”
  • Seek provincial funding for additional North Oakville elementary school (south of Burnhamthorpe, east of Trafalgar).

Long term (2028 and beyond)

  • Seek funding for additional North Oakville elementary and high schools