FERGUS – The provincial government has approved a proposal from the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) for a new elementary school in north Fergus.
Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece announced on Jan. 13 the province is providing $8.5 million for the new school, which was the only capital project proposal submitted to the province by the board last April.
“This is great news for hard-working families in Centre Wellington,” Pettapiece stated in a press release announcing the news.
“It will mean new opportunities for children in a safe, modern facility.
“I want to thank the Upper Grand District School Board and recognize everyone at the local and provincial levels who made the case for this new school.”
The provincial announcement notes the site for the “new Centre Wellington elementary school has yet to be acquired,” but last year the UGDSB secured a purchase option on a six-acre site in the Storybrook subdivision in Fergus, adjacent to a park.
“We are thrilled to receive government funding to construct a new elementary school to serve the Centre Wellington community,” reads a joint statement from Peter Sovran, UGDSB director of education, and Linda Busuttil, chair of the board.
“This area continues to grow with substantial residential development approved and underway.
“This funding will allow us to expand to continue to meet the needs of the Centre Wellington community.”
On April 20, 2021 a UGDSB staff report to the board’s business committee explained the new school is the only item on the board’s capital request submission to the province, after a new Fergus school was turned down by the Ministry of Education in 2019.
Staff recommended that a new 308 pupil-place elementary school be constructed in the north part of Fergus to accommodate anticipated enrolment pressure from over 1,500 housing units in the Storybrook development that’s nearing completion.
Staff anticipated 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 were expected to be at 100% capacity.
By 2025-26, a shortage of around 370 pupil places was predicted and by 2027-28, the board was forecasting approximately 700 more students than available capacity in existing elementary schools.
If the new school was not approved, board officials predicted that future elementary students from the Storybook development area would 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 stated.
“Other local school sites are not well suited to accommodate this enrolment growth.”
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott, who does not make funding announcements due to his role as Speaker of the legislature, said he is very pleased there will be a new Fergus school.
“I want to thank the Upper Grand District School Board trustees and staff for establishing the need for a new elementary school in the Township of Centre Wellington,” Arnott stated in an email to the Advertiser.
“We know that great communities attract young families.
“We need to plan for the growth that is coming, and ensure that all our students have access to the very best education possible.”
The new Fergus school is part of $600 million in provincial spending to support new school and child care spaces.
Provincial officials say the spending will support 78 school and child care related projects across the province, creating over 19,700 new student spaces and 3,000 child care spaces.
“This investment is part of our multiyear plan to build, expand, and update schools and child care spaces across our province,” education minister Stephen Lecces stated in the press release.
“It will leave a lasting legacy that benefits working families for years to come.”
Officials say the province has committed to providing $14 billion to support school construction over ten years and there are currently more than 300 child care and education building-related projects in development across Ontario, with more than 100 actively under construction.