Approve the Construction of St. Nicholas CES

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We, concerned parents of children attending St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School, write to you as our trusted MPP and request that you assist your constituents in raising our concerns with the Honorable Lisa M. Thompson, Minister of Education.

We wish to express our concern with respect to the most recent in a long series of delays in the construction of our new school building and to request that the Ministry review and approve the most recent revised construction budget on a priority basis.

There has been a history of delay in the construction of our new school.  In 2016, the Ministry rejected the first request for funding for the construction of St. Nicholas, thus delaying a project that was first recommended in 2013.

Last month, we were informed that, despite the Ministry having already approved the consolidation of our former schools and committing to fund the new school building and despite the fact that the schools had already amalgamated and St. Joseph School had already been demolished, there would be further delay in constructing the new facility.  This, we were told, was the result of unanticipated increases in construction costs, which our school board proposed to pay for out of its own funds.  Despite the fact that the Board would be paying for the increased cost, the Ministry inexplicably (and, in our view, unreasonably) refused to approve the commencement of construction.  

It has been 18 months since the Ministry of Education announced that it approved the consolidation of the St. James and St. Joseph school communities and committed to funding the new school building and we are told it could be months before the Ministry even reviews the revised construction budget.  And while our school administration should be commended for all it has done to make our transition to an amalgamated school in a temporary location work, we cannot ignore that there are many concerns associated with prolonging the construction of our new building. 

The physical location of the temporary premises presents a significant issue.  Until the new school is built, the majority of students at St. Nicholas require bussing to the Morden Road location.  As a result, there is a heavy demand on the already strained bussing companies.  Our buses are frequently late, meaning that students are missing valuable classroom time.  This situation should not be allowed to drag on any longer than is necessary.

There is also a real concern that families that are currently enrolled in St. Nicholas (or those who would have considered switching to St. Nicholas) and are frustrated by the delay will consider alternatives to the separate school system, such as enrolling them in the public board or a private school.  This will obviously have serious consequences, including financial ones, for our school board.  The Ministry’s initial announcement was that St. Nicholas would open in September 2019; the further we stray from that date, the more this concern becomes a reality.

It should also be pointed out that the Morden Road location was built in 1956 and, while renovated in the 1990s, contains much of the original infrastructure and the health and safety concerns that go along with older piping and building materials.  There is also a question of whether the building is suitable for our students’ current needs.  For example, one of the concerns that parents have raised is that there are not enough kindergarten classrooms for the current number of kindergarten classes. 

Finally, the psychological impact on the school community cannot be ignored, as we continue to live with uncertainty as to whether and when we will be moving to the final St. Nicholas facility. 

It is abundantly clear that we need to move forward with the construction of the new St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School, as promised.  The Ministry has an important role to play in ensuring that the project is not subject to further unnecessary delay.  We ask that the Ministry consider the resubmission of the budget on a priority basis and approve it and we are seeking your help in ensuring that this matter is raised with Minister Thompson.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.