Century-old school looking for community support

Submitted by Erin Hetherington – 

Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre, is planning a visit to Elmdale Public School on the afternoon of Thursday, November 9 to show his support for efforts to renovate and rejuvenate the century-old building. He will be joined by Kitchissippi Councillor, Jeff Leiper, and School Board Trustee, Erica Braunovan. The visit will mark the first time in recent history that three elected officials have agreed to visit Elmdale Public School in support of renovations for meaningful and lasting renewal at the school.

Renew Elmdale Committee from left to right: Geri Moss-Norbury; Kaireen Patton; Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre and Ontario’s Attorney General; Caroline W.; Dana Yamamura; and Renew Elmdale founder Larry Shamash. (Absent: Noel Kivimaki, Jessica Evans, Erin Hetherington.) Photo by William Bulmer

Elmdale Public School, in the heart of the Kitchissippi ward, has an almost 100-year-long history in the community. Elmdale parents are wholeheartedly involved parents with a strong belief in the public school system.

Unfortunately, despite having a reputation for educational excellence, the school is in need of meaningful and lasting renovations to address numerous problems such as lack of accessibility, effective heating and cooling, and outdated washrooms.

While the majority of elementary schools in the neighbourhood have received extensive renovations, Elmdale has not.  Accessibility is a significant concern. Elmdale cannot accommodate students or staff with mobility issues as it has no elevator and its only accessible washroom is in a kindergarten classroom.  Classroom space remains another issue. The increase in density that is occurring in Elmdale’s neighbourhoods means the Board projects enrollment will continue to increase. Currently, there are seven portables being used to house the overflow of students from the main building. The washrooms are outdated, and the building lacks an effective heating and cooling system, which means that teachers are required to find creative solutions to keep the students cool in warmer months.

Minor renovations are not sufficient to address accessibility, capacity, and heating/cooling concerns – in fact, following a boundary review and also as a result of the implementation of Full Day Kindergarten, an addition was proposed for Elmdale, and approved by the Ottawa Carleton School Board (OCDSB). Despite concerned efforts from both the OCDSB and Elmdale parents, the Ministry of Education has not yet agreed to fund the Board’s recommended addition. As Geri Moss-Norbury, Elmdale parent and past council co-chair notes, “the solution was arrived at democratically after hundreds of hours of work between parents, school councils and school trustees.  It is important that the Ministry of Education listens to and respects this democratic process.”

Despite the school’s physical condition, it is well loved by students, staff and parents. It has an active council, including co-chair Kaireen Patton, who is an Elmdale alumnus whose child is the third generation to attend the school. The council has donated funds to other schools in need and to the community through Elmdale Cares, holds fundraising and community events such as Fun Fair and Bookfest, and has, in the past, supported and cheered improvements to neighbouring schools. Kaireen notes, however, that “while the Elmdale community works very hard to raise funds we are unable to direct the use of these funds towards school building improvements.”

Elmdale parents have formed the “Renew Elmdale” committee in hopes of obtaining funding for Elmdale. While much work remains to be done, momentum is building. Over the past six months, the committee has gathered almost 700 signatures from Elmdale families and community members supporting the need for this addition, and officials, including Yasir Naqvi, Erica Braunovan and Jeff Leiper have written letters of support for the initiative.

Larry Shamash, founder of the Renew Elmdale committee, has effectively rallied parents and the broader community to support the improvements because the quality of education and staff is so excellent. Noting the importance of Elmdale to the community, he says, “Elmdale School is the heart of the community, where children are classmates, neighbours and friends all at once.”

To support Renew Elmdale, please join us at Elmdale School on Thursday November 9 at 3:10 pm to thank our elected officials for their support. Coffee will be served thanks to the generous support of Bridgehead.

For more information, or to sign the petition, go to renewelmdale.org.

Erin Hetherington is a member of the Renew Elmdale team and is an Elmdale parent.

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