Mutchmor / First Avenue public school ‘switch’ – update

By Sharon Chartier

January 14, 2013 marked an important milestone in the ‘switch’ of programs, students and staff between Mutchmor Public School and First Avenue Public School, planned for September, 2014. On that date Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre, announced funding for an addition to Mutchmor School that would provide the necessary added capacity to accommodate the student population in the Glebe.

In 2011 and 2012, an accommodation study for the Glebe, Centretown and Old Ottawa South was carried out by the Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and involved representatives from schools and community associations in these areas, including the Glebe Community Association (GCA). The goal was to develop recommendations for consideration by the OCDSB that would improve the overcrowding at First Avenue Public School and the underutilization of Mutchmor Public School.

In December 2011, the OCDSB announced that the Accommodation Working Group’s recommendation, proposing the exchange of programs between Mutchmor Public School and First Avenue Public School, was accepted. This meant that the board would seek capital funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education for an 11-classroom addition to accommodate the student population. The January 14 announcement means that the project has now moved into the design and planning phases.

Both of these phases were discussed at the January 24, 2013 joint meeting of the Mutchmor and First Avenue parent councils. The meeting began with a presentation by the planning and design team of the OCDSB and the architect contracted to design the Mutchmor addition. To view the presentations made at that session, please check the GCA website at http://www.glebeca.ca/.

A First Avenue Public School / Mutchmor Public School Transition Committee has been struck to help identify and address issues arising during the ‘switch’ and to ensure that the parent community is well informed. The committee, parent representatives from both schools, and a GCA representative have identified three main areas of interest to date.

Mutchmor addition/renovation architectural design

Input from current First Avenue Principal, Jennifer Nutt, and her staff will ensure that the design appropriately addresses student needs and flow. We are currently discussing opportunities for public consultation and feedback.

Project timelines, budget and implementation logistics

The board and architects both indicated that timelines for a September 2014 completion date are tight. The OCDSB has been requested to provide a better understanding of timelines and to ensure that there is a contingency plan for First Avenue PS, should the renovation not be completed in time for September 2014.

“A First Avenue Public School / Mutchmor Public School Transition Committee has been struck to help identify and address issues arising during
the ‘switch.’”

Capital funding for a project of this magnitude comes from a variety of sources. Although the January 14 announcement was great news, not all of the funding has been secured. For the Transition Committee, this will be another area of discussion with the OCDSB.

Issues with implications for the entire community

The board has identified a need for additional parking spots for the expanded Mutchmor School. While the Superintendent of the OCDSB has not committed to any particular solution, one proposal being considered is to construct parking on the large field between Third and Fourth avenues (Mutchmor Field).

Access to Mutchmor Field was deemed an essential element of an overall plan to ensure adequate space for the increased number of students that will be at Mutchmor once the ‘switch’ is complete. The availability of this additional green space was one of the key factors in choosing expansion at Mutchmor rather than First Avenue, where less play space is available. The construction plan calls for the school addition to take up much of the southwest corner of the existing Mutchmor schoolyard. Coupled with growth in the school population, it becomes evident that there is a greater need for play space for students.

Even before losing the Sylvia Holden Park space along Holmwood this summer, the Glebe had less than 50 per cent of the City of Ottawa’s standard for city parkland. Over 300 hours of programmed activities take place in the Mutchmor Field, with a total of 6,000 Glebe children using the space in programs offered by the Glebe Neighborhood Activities Group. Meanwhile many adults and teens also use the two community-supported ice rinks throughout the winter. In addition to serving the needs of Mutchmor students, Mutchmor Field also acts as a resource for Corpus Christi School, which uses the yard for recess and physical education classes. In addition, there are many other community and sports groups that make use of this space, including those operating the community-managed skating rink, outdoor yoga classes, the Ottawa International Soccer league, and men’s and women’s hockey leagues.

Because this is a community issue, the GCA Education Committee will take the lead role. A letter has been sent to the OCDSB and the City of Ottawa (involved in site plan approvals) clearly articulating the community’s objection to such a plan, and highlighting several other possible parking alternatives. The letter is posted on the GCA website.

For updates on the First Avenue / Mutchmor Public School ‘switch’, check the GCA website at www.glebegca.ca, Mutchmor Public School site at www.mutchmorps.ocdsp.ca, or First Avenue Public School site at www.firstaveps.ocdsp.ca.

Sharon Chartier is chair of the Glebe Community Association’s Education Committee.

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