By Ryan Flanagan
Kitchener Post staff
For the 50 people who showed up at the Waterloo Region District School Board office Monday night, the evening couldn’t have gone any better.
With little discussion and no dissent, school board trustees unanimously voted down a plan to close Stanley Park Public School in 2014, instead making some boundary adjustments and renovations to other schools that will see the Grade 7-8 Stanley Park remain open for years to come.
The board was considering two options for elementary schools in that area, as recommended by an accommodation review committee. One scenario would have seen Stanley Park closed, Mackenzie King Public School demolished and replaced with a new K-8 school, and Crestview Public School renovated to include space for Grade 7-8 students. The other scenario — the one adopted by trustees — will see additional space constructed at Mackenzie King and Breslau Public School as well as some boundary changes, but no closures.
It was this second option that was recommended to trustees by school board planning staff last week, which parent Karleen Waters said gave her a positive feeling heading into Monday night’s meeting.
“Once the planning report came down in favour of keeping Stanley Park open, we thought that we might have a chance,” she said.
Karleen’s husband Scott was the first of eight delegations to address the trustees, all of whom hammered home many of the same points.
“It’s disruptive to the fewest number of students and community members,” he said of the option to keep Stanley Park open, also noting that trustees had been given a 123-page package of public feedback including a petition signed by 1,091 residents opposed to the Stanley Park closure.
School board chair Kathleen Woodcock said that she didn’t know whether the public feedback swayed the committee’s recommendation, but that it did cause her to rethink her stance. “Getting that input is critical for us,” she said. “It certainly made me think a little bit deeper.”
The Waters family has two daughters at the school, both of whom were not in attendance Monday night, but for a good reason – Stanley Park students were away this week, on their year-end trips to Quebec City and Camp New Moon. “I think they would have had a lot more people here tonight if not for the school trips, but that’s what makes the school great,” said Karleen.
Plenty of former students were in attendance, though – the most recent being Julia Witmer, now in Grade 9 at Grand River Collegiate, who also addressed the trustees as a delegation. Witmer spoke of the extra-curricular opportunities open to her and her friends at Stanley Park that they would not have had at a K-8 school, and afterwards said she was “very happy” that the school would stay open.
Students who will be affected by the vote include those living east of Heritage Lackner Boulevard and currently attending Breslau, who will be switched over to Mackenzie King by 2014 and then attend Stanley Park for Grade 7-8, and students living between River Road, Victoria Street, and the Stanley Park conservation area and attending Mackenzie King, who will be moved to Smithson Public School by 2014.
There is an estimated cost of just over $6 million for the additions to Breslau and Mackenzie King and parking lot improvements at Smithson – in contrast to $11.3 million in costs for the other option even after obtaining $5 million from the sale of the Stanley Park property.