Sunday, 29 April 2012

Town Ward subtract PCVS = the only school-free ward in Ontario!

Now that we’ve had a look at a variety of scenarios in other Ontario cities comparable to Peterborough, let’s put the situation of PCVS into perspective.

If KPR administrators and out-of-town trustees have their way, Peterborough will become the only city in Ontario where an entire city ward is home to no regular English-language elementary or secondary schools, in either the public or Catholic systems.

It’s true – Town Ward, Peterborough’s most densely residential ward, with a population of 15,000 people, would be the only city ward in Ontario not to have any regularly accessible schools at all.

How could such a travesty of planning come to pass? There must be some imaginary version of Town Ward that exists in the minds of people who work at Fisher Drive and the out-of-town trustees who rubber stamp their plans – a version bearing little resemblance to reality.

Town Ward’s population density is twice as high as any of Peterborough’s other wards. There are no golf courses, large park lands, industrial areas, sprawling commercial spaces, or major public institutional properties. Except for Peterborough Square and the Market Plaza, every commercial strip in Town Ward is also residential – often right above or right beside businesses and offices. In fact, there’s hardly any area in the entire ward that isn’t residential in some capacity.

The only ward that comes close to Town Ward in residential orientation is Northcrest. With just a few more citizens living in an area twice the size of Town Ward, Northcrest is home to no fewer than four public elementary schools, two Catholic elementary schools, and one public high school with an intermediate wing (Adam Scott).

Town Ward has in recent memory lost Central Public School (beside the police station), King Edward Public School (where the new YMCA is), St. Peter’s Elementary (now residences, just off Reid St. west of downtown) and Sacred Heart near Lansdowne (now Monseigneur-Jamot, a tiny specialized French-Catholic board school).

The only regular English-language school in the ward today is PCVS.

The map below shows the distribution of schools in Peterborough – with PCVS removed. Secondary schools are represented by name, and elementary schools by a small pentagonred for public schools, blue for Catholic. (Crestwood and James Strath are considered to be in Monaghan Ward, though at the moment they remain technically just beyond the city limit.) The city ward map is here.

                         Pub. elem.     Cath. elem.   Pub. sec.    Cath. sec.     Total
Northcrest             4                      2                      1                      0                      7
Monaghan              4                      2                      1                      1                      8
Otonabee                3                      2                      1                      1                      7
Ashburnham       3                      3                      1                      0                      7
Town Ward           0                      0                      1                      0                      1

The only other city wards in all of Ontario with as little as one school are the Trillium and Williamsville wards in Kingston. Both wards have considerably fewer residents than Town Ward – only about 10,000 – and Williamsville is a mere one square kilometer in area, while Trillium is an unusually laid-out ward just north of the penitentiary, divided by a river and large green space.

Sudbury recently saw the Rainbow school board re-invest in the historic, central Sudbury Secondary School, substantially rebuilding the facility with an emphasis on performing arts space, as you can read on With a population of 108,000 divided into twelve wards, each of Sudbury’s wards is home to many fewer people than our own Town Ward – yet each has not just one but several schools.

Even in Sault Ste. Marie, where the absence of public secondary schools from a more than 20 square kilometer area in the center of town has helped create a ghetto famed for prostitution, each of the city’s six wards is home to several schools.

Cities not using the ward system – such as Belleville, Niagara Falls, and Sarnia – if divided up in any rational geographical way into four or five areas roughly the size of Peterborough’s wards would have no fewer than four schools in each.

The planning standard for municipalities is an absolute minimum of one school for 10,000 residents – as indicated by the city of Peterborough’s recent documents indicating potential need for a new elementary school in the planned subdivision south of the 115 bypass near River Road.

The provincial rule of thumb for urban planning is that there should be almost no residences more than one kilometer from a publicly accessible school of some kind.

This is the case in every Ontario city in any way comparable to Peterborough. Even cities which have experienced zero population growth for decades, such as Windsor, Thunder Bay, and Sarnia, maintain this standard. In none of these cities are there any substantial number of residences further than one kilometer from a school.

Belleville, our nearest neighbour, with a population of about 50,000 is only two-thirds the size of Peterborough. Yet if we divide it into west, central, east and north quadrants (the central split by the river, and the north end being the newer neighbourhood close to the 401), each area has at least five schools. No Belleville residence is farther than one kilometer from a school. The city maintains two Catholic high schools and three public – including one, Quinte, right downtown.

Sarnias population has actually declined over the past two decades – at 72,000, it’s now smaller than Peterborough (nearly 80,000). If we divide Sarnia into north-east, north-west, south-east, and south-west quadrants, we find that the one with the fewest schools, the north-west – an area dominated by parkland, a golf course, and a cemetery – still has two public elementary schools, plus one Catholic. The historic, central Sarnia Collegiate remains alive and well.

In Niagara Falls, a city with a population almost exactly the same as Peterborough, only a very few residences in the northwest corner of town are slightly more than one kilometer from a school. The massive, historic Stamford Collegiate remains in operation close to the city's downtown.

If KPR administrators have their way, it won’t be a case of just a few residences in the corner of town. Thousands of central Peterborough residences will be 50% farther than this standard. There will be no regular English-language schools at all in the nearly 13 square kilometer area between Lansdowne and Parkhill, the river and Monaghan Road.

You can either live near a grocery storeor near a school. Close to the riveror close to a school. Near downtown employment and cultureor within walking distance of a school. You won’t be able to have both, if KPR has its way.

The geographical center of Peterborough is the corner of Charlotte and Monaghan. Families living in this neighbourhood will be a minimum of 3 km from the nearest public high schools (Kenner and Adam Scott), and 4 km from TASSS and Crestwood.

Titles Bookstore, the only new-release bookstore downtown, just announced that they’ll be closing, as reported by the Examiner this week. If there’s no high school – or indeed any school of any kind within walking distance – what chance will there be for anyone else to succeed in maintaining a new bookstore downtown?

Welland and Sault Ste. Marie have shown us what will happen if KPR is allowed to close PCVS – an institution built and still paid for by Peterborough citizens. Without any schools in the center of our community, we will join them in the sad parade toward American-style inner-city burnout, while residents in other Ontario cities take pity on us from afar.

How can we thank you, KPR, for this rare opportunity to become an Ontario leader in urban mismanagement?


  1. If I didn't know better, I'd say it's an attempt to hollow out the core of the city by the KPR school board. I always thought that happened when a city goes into demise because of lack of jobs. Here we have a case of some vibrancy in the centre of town, and a group with significant influence essentially saying: let's destroy Peterborough. Brilliant.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The various Peterborough maps below could provide interesting fodder as well!

  4. Titles is closing because the lease is not being renewed. It has nothing at all to do with the PCVS possibility of closure. Let's try to stay with facts shall we. I have perused several of the highly biased articles written in this blog and have trouble believing that the author is not affiliated with the attempt to save PCVS.