$4.9M investment to expand overcrowded St. Thomas, Ont. school

Jeff Yurek, MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London announced a $4.9-million investment from the province on Thursday.

It go toward building an addition at St. Anne’s Catholic Elementary school that will add 210 student spaces.

“This investment will provide choice and flexibility for families and new opportunities”

The project is part of a province-wide investment of more than $600 million to support new school and child care spaces recently announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

The news was welcome for London Catholic District School Board Trustee Bill Hall.

“We're finally going to be able to get some of them out of those portables back there and into a school setting.”

There is no date set for when the expansion at St. Anne's will begin, but now that the funding is in place the board can begin the process to plan the project. Currently there are 14 portables on the site.

“Shocked that the portables that are there. I went to school here and it was St. Raphael's and that's where the original school was and...is supposed to be a playing field and which is now a portable field,” says Yurek.

He says there are more funding announcements coming for the London area soon, a stark contrast to just a few years ago when schools were being threatened with closure due to low enrolment numbers.

How they decide which schools should expand and by how much to meet future demand is tricky.

“There is a danger in the fact that you could guess wrong, but I think that really speaks to what occurred. What occurred in the Thames Valley District School Board when they're going to close schools previously,” says Yurek.

“I think it's very important that school boards really connect with local municipalities to get that that, that look of the land, to see what's what's going to be filled up and how it's going to be done. And then go from there. If there's a disconnect between the two, that's when you're gonna see issues arise.”

The addition to St. Anne’s will increase the capacity limits to 743 students, which will alleviate much of the portable use, but not eliminate it, as there are over 800 students currently enrolled at the school according to Hall.

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