Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board Meeting, 13th of June 2000
By Quentin Bristow
Flyers had been dropped around the neighbourhood of the Immaculate Heart of Mary School suggesting that local residents who felt that their property
values might be affected by the closing, should attend the board meeting. Apparently these were distributed by a group of concerned parents and did
not originate from any official Board source.
The meeting convened around 8. 30 p.m. I had never been to an OCCSSB meeting in my life and it was actually a good experience. The meetings provide
for a 'Ratepayers Gallery', where the general public can observe the proceedings and make a five-minute presentation if they add their names to a speakers
There were a number of well-reasoned presentations from a number of people. Their main points were:
- The residential area immediately surrounding the school is currently populated by seniors/empty nesters, who will gradually be replaced by younger people with
young families. It will be too late then to attempt to backtrack.
- There are major residential developments underway and planned which will add up to six hundred homes in the area currently served by the school.
- The board has mis-represented the occupancy level of the school by including resource rooms as empty class rooms, thereby making it appear
that the space is under-utilised.
- The board has defended an arbitrary boundary (Smyth Road), to define which schools former pupils will be eligible to attend, on the basis of their proximity
to two other schools, McMasters and St Lukes. Two of the speakers claimed that :
- this is tantamount to creating unequal opportunity because those who live on the South side of Smyth Road will have the choice of attending either
school or McMasters school, while those who live on the North side will only be eligible for St Lukes,
- the proximity argument is indefensible because a significant number of pupils on the North side of Smyth Road are actually closer to McMasters
school than other residents who are fortunate enough to be on the South side of Smyth Road.
- One speaker told the board that a petition had been collected with 78 signatures showing that the children of those parents will not be going to
designated schools, adding that with the closure of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the board will not be solving the problem at St. Luke because they
(the signatories) will not be used as the solution. [ed. The implication here seemed to be that the board is perceived to be attempting
to beef up the occupancy of St Luke, but I have not been party to this particular battle].
The Trustees listened attentively to the speakers and asked a number of questions.
Clearly school closures are emotionally charged issues. Trying to second-guess the constantly changing demographics in a too-fast growing city
like this one, is next to impossible. In my view it is yet another reason for setting limits to the size of a relatively affluent city like Ottawa, where the
incumbent population will benefit little from the addtion of new jobs and investment, but will have its quality of life slowly eroded by increased traffic
congestion , pollution and noise.
Add to that the very problem we are considering here, the constant uncertainty that fast growth creates about the viability of individual schools,
hospitals and other public facitlities, with the attendant necessity to have these disruptive changes of direction every few years.