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Proposed new south end high school is still years away, says school board

Upper Grand District School Board hopes to get the green light from the province in January, but school would still take at least two years to get built
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The proposed new south end high school would be located on the northwest corner of Arkell and Victoria roads. (concept drawing)

A new south end high school is still "several years away" even if the province ponies up the money, says the local school board.

Representatives of the Upper Grand District School board appeared before City Council at its planning meeting Monday night discussing plans for a new three-storey high school that would accommodate 1,200 students on an 18-acre parcel of farmland on the northwest corner of the Arkell Road/Victoria Road intersection.

Jennifer Passy, the Upper Grand District School Board's Manager of Planning, said the board is hoping to hear from the province in early 2018 as to whether it is getting funding for the new school.

Even if the province green lights the project, Passy said detailed design of the project could take up to a year and construction another year.

"We're still several years out," Passy told council.

The board appropriated the property in 2015 but needs Official Plan and zoning by-law amendments in order to put a school there. Monday was the public meeting for the amendment applications. No decisions were made.

Passy said the new school would be a "traditional" high school that would help meet the needs of the board, which has built six elementary schools since 2005 but no new high school in approximately 50 years.

If and when the new school goes ahead, there will also be a boundary review done of the city's three public high schools.

Passy said it was undecided at this point whether grades 9 to 12 would immediately be populated in the new school or if the school would be populated gradually to have less effect on students near the end of their high school career.

School board planner Pierre Chauvin said the site was a suitable one because of its access to arterial roads, residential developments, bike lanes and bus routes.

Chauvin said the city's three public high schools are currently 600 students over capacity.

The proposed school would:

  • Employ 110 people
  • Be oriented toward the intersection with two driveways, on Victoria and Arkell
  • Include a track and playing fields
  • Pedestrian connections to Arkell Road, Victoria Road and adjacent lands (potential for trail connection)
  • Ring road for bus circulation
  • Two surface parking lots for students and staff
  • Retention of woodlands to the north

Councillor Mike Salisbury expressed concern of what he called "archaic" planning principles being used for the proposal, something he said was a philosophical criticism.

"I'm very, very concerned about the loss of medium density and commercial land at a key point in our city," Salisbury said.

He said a "huge swath of single-use property" that is "only being used half the time anyway" should be a concern for the city, where intensification is the development focus of late.

Coun. Leanne Piper wanted to make sure that light pollution was kept to a minimum.

Other than that, council expressed few concerns about the proposal, which will come back for final decision at a later date.