Board hopes to build new elementary school in north Fergus

FERGUS – The Upper Grand School Board (UGDSB) is making a second attempt at getting a new elementary school built in Fergus after being turned down by the Ministry of Education in 2019.

An April 20 staff report to the board’s business committee explained the Ministry of Education has invited school boards to submit their top 10 capital projects for consideration.

A new school in Fergus is the only item on the Upper Grand’s list.

Staff is recommending that a new 308 pupil-place elementary school be constructed in the north part of Fergus to accommodate anticipated enrolment pressure from the development of over 1,500 housing units in the Storybrook development that’s nearing completion.

Staff anticipates another 4,000 new housing units are planned in Centre Wellington over the next 10 years.

For the 2021-22 school year, elementary schools in Centre Wellington are expected to be at 100% capacity.

By 2025-26, a shortage of around 370 pupil places is predicted and by 2027-28, the board is forecasting approximately 700 more students than available capacity in existing elementary schools.

As it stands now, future regular-track elementary students from this development area will attend Salem Public School for JK to Grade 3 and Elora Public School for Grades 4 to 8.

“Significant investment would be necessary at both Salem PS and Elora PS to accommodate future enrolment growth from this development area,” the report states.

“Other local school sites are not well suited to accommodate this enrolment growth.”

Board staff has identified a six-acre site for a school that’s adjacent to a municipal park and it has been optioned by the board.

“Should the board endorse this capital priority, staff will contact the coterminous school boards, Child Care Consolidated Municipal Service Manager (CMSM) and District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) to determine whether there is interest in a joint use submission,” the report states, although to date, there has been no interest in co-build opportunities for community partners.

In 2019 the board submitted three priority capital projects: the new school in Fergus, a four-classroom addition to Hyland Heights Elementary School in Shelburne, and a four-classroom addition at Glenbrook Elementary School in Shelburne.

Only the Hyland Heights project was approved by the Ministry of Education in 2019 and that project is currently underway, the report states.

Staff has not included the addition to Glenbrook school in this round of capital projects as kindergarten enrolment has not been as great as projected.

The report states that staff will continue to monitor growth in Shelburne and future accommodation needs.

Trustees were to make a decision on the school at their April 27 meeting. Results were not known by press time.