School overcrowding in 905-land
What with being the first week back to school and all, there's been no shortage of news coverage lately on issues for teachers, students, parents, and Ontario's education system in general. What I find most interesting is the coverage of not skyrocketing classroom sizes, but skyrocketing school sizes. Probably the best place to start is in an editorial published in the Star today that provides a number of example of schools in 905 that are overcrowded just a few years (or even months) after opening, and outlines a number of reasons why.
I can certainly attest to the crowding, as both my mother and fiancee are elementary teachers in Peel. For example, my mom teaches in the Mavis Road area of northern Mississauga. Recently a new school opened not far from hers and already its property is covered in portables. I'm almost certain I heard her say that one school had 300 kindergarten students (the number is so large that I'm doing a double-take on it today, but I'm pretty sure that's it) — she said it had more students in kindergarten alone than attended the entire K-6 school where I went to kindergarten.
What hasn't had as much attention in the news, is school sizes, and in particular the new principle of building fewer, larger facilities in the quest to attain supposed efficiencies. That school near Mavis Road probably isn't much smaller population-wise than the high school I attended, for example. The result is a much larger service area, a low proportion of students within walking distance (almost NIL at my mother's school), and thus huge costs to bus most of the students in (and/or choking traffic congestion from parents dropping their kids off). Oh, not to mention kids that spend half their day on a school bus.
You can see the same principle easily in libraries, for example: look at the Mississauga Public Library branch location map (PDF file). Of their 16 local branches (excluding the Central Library), only four have been built since I became a patron some twenty years ago (a few have moved locations somewhat or have been renovated, but their general service area has remained the same). For a more striking example, look at the Toronto Public Library branch location map, and compare the number and distribution of branches in older parts of the city (the old Toronto, southern Etobicoke, East York) with those in the suburbs. Note also how many smaller "neighbourhood libraries" there are in each area.