Statistics are showing some surprising and even sobering facts about education in our area. There are English-language schools like Vankleek Collegiate Institute and Pleasant Corners Public where many of the students likely come from homes where English is not the first language. The cost of keeping the lights and heat on at some schools is very high. Many of the buildings need significant repair. Local populations are expected to decline which will affect the future of school enrolment. In some communities, a higher-than-average number of parents don’t have a high school diploma or are single parents. Unemployment and lower incomes are higher in school communities around Vankleek Hill than in South Glengarry. Schools are community meeting places in some towns and villages, while they are hardly used at all by the community in other places.
The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), keeps statistics for every school under its jurisdiction and they say a lot about our communities. They’re called School Information Profiles (SIP). They show the basics like enrolment levels and operating costs, but they include interesting information about the broader community. That information includes things like levels of education, income, unemployment, and languages spoken by parents. There are also figures on the number of hours a school is used by community organizations like sports leagues, Scouts, and Girl Guides.
Pleasant Corners Public School (PCPS) is at 77 per cent capacity and it looks like that number will decrease because the population pressure is estimated to be -12 per cent; 28 per cent of the facility requires improvements, which is the lowest figure for the local elementary schools. PCPS has the second-lowest per pupil cost for utilities at $232.47 and the second-highest rate of community use at 208.3 hours per year.
Pleasant Corners is in an area with higher-than-average levels of unemployment, low incomes, and single parent homes. 5.7 per cent of local households are considered low-income, unemployment affects 7.2 per cent of the households, and over 33 per cent of the households are headed by single parents. Over 17 per cent of adults in the Pleasant Corners Public School area do not have a high school diploma. Those numbers indicate that jobs—or good paying ones, are difficult to find in the area and that older generations in the area did not always complete high school. The number of homes where English is not the language normally spoken is significantly higher too, at 66.9 per cent. That figure is no surprise because the school is in a francophone-majority area.
Laggan Public School is at only 59 per cent capacity and 47 per cent of the facility needs some sort of repair—the highest figure among the local elementary schools. The negative population pressure is almost 32 per cent and the highest among the local elementary schools. A figure like that means the 59 per cent capacity use is likely to decline in future years. The per-pupil facility cost is the highest in the elementary category at $380.08 per student. That figure isn’t surprising considering a significant amount of the school needs repair. Community use hours at Laggan are middle of the pack among local elementary schools at 137.8 hours.
The employment and single-parent statistics for Laggan are similar to those of Pleasant Corners Public School. 5.4 per cent of the households are considered low-income and 30.6 per cent of the households are headed by single parents. Unemployment is 7.1 per cent and 14.9 per cent of adults do not have a high school diploma. The number of households where a language other than English is spoken is 39.7 per cent, almost half of the number for Pleasant Corners Public School. The explanation for this is probably the higher anglophone population in Glengarry County.
The number of non-English households is even lower for Maxville Public School at 21 per cent. Just over 11 per cent of adults in the community do not have a high school diploma. That amount is slightly below average. The 6.2 per cent unemployment rate for local households is also slightly below average, along with a much lower number of low-income households at 2.7 per cent. Eleven point one per cent of adults in the community do not have a high school diploma, a figure also lower than at Pleasant Corners and Laggan.
Maxville Public School has much higher community use hours than other local elementary schools at 2,112 hours. Right now, the school is only at 30 per cent capacity with 106 students; it could accept 348 students. That small student population is likely going to change in future years though because Maxville is the only local school with a positive population pressure at 2.7 per cent. It costs $285.63 per student for utilities at the school and 34 per cent of the facility requires repairs.
Williamstown Public School is the only one of the four elementary schools that is operating over capacity. The school was built for 249 students and it has 379. However, it has a negative population pressure of -26.1 per cent which means the over-capacity could shrink to an under-capacity usage in future years. While students are packing into the school during the day, the community isn’t making much use of the building in off-hours. Williamstown has registered only three hours of community use in the past year. It also has the lowest per-pupil facility cost among area elementary schools at $105.65 but repairs are needed for 42 per cent of the facility.
The rates for unemployment, low-income households, single-parent households, and non-English speaking households are all much lower for Williamstown than the other local school communities. Just 2.6 per cent of the households are considered low-income, and the unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent. Only 17.8 per cent of the homes have single parents and English is not the first language in 14.7 percent of households.
SIP statistics for the secondary schools are similar because the communities they serve overlap with the communities served by the elementary schools. Vankleek Collegiate Institute (VCI) is at 83 per cent capacity with 297 students; it was built for 357. There’s a -5.6 per cent population pressure on the school which means the high occupancy rate is likely to increase. The school was built just in 2010 so it has a repair need level of zero per cent. However, it has high utility costs at $593.96 per pupil. The USDSB did not provide any answers about why this is the case for such a new building. However, secondary schools are generally larger buildings with more utility-intensive functions that use more electricity, gas, and water, which could explain the higher utility costs.
Community use hours are much higher for the high schools than for the elementary schools. This is probably because they offer larger facilities, especially gymnasiums and stages. VCI logged 1,655.5 hours. The statistics for low-income households, unemployment, single-parent homes, and non-English speaking households are the identical numbers for Pleasant Corners Public School which is nearby.
Glengarry District High School (GDHS) is only at 33 per cent capacity. It was built for 933 students and has only 309. Repairs are needed on 42 per cent of the building and the per-pupil utility cost is high at $639.69. GDHS has a population pressure of -7.9 per cent which means the below-capacity trend for the facility will likely continue. The school seems to be a popular community meeting place, though, at 1,832.5 hours.
The sociological data for GDHS tends to trend slightly above the UCDSB averages because secondary schools often include territory that overlaps with elementary schools where the numbers are also higher than average. 5.1 per cent of the households in the GDHS area are considered low-income and unemployment is at 7.1 per cent. 29.2 per cent of the households have a single parent and 14.4 per cent of the people do not have a high school diploma. English is not the language spoken at home in 37.2 per cent of the households.
Phil Dawes, the Superintendent of District Alignment for the UCDSB said boards develop SIPs to comply with Pupil Accommodation Review policies set by the Ministry of Education. The reviews are part of the process that often results in schools being restructured or closed. Dawes said the UCDSB is not planning another Pupil Accommodation Review and that the provincial government has placed a hold on further reviews. SIP data does not get used as a reason to begin Pupil Accommodation Reviews either.
SIP statistics come from the UCDSB’s own records on enrolment, staffing, transportation, and facilities. The community-based statistics on things like employment and level of education are from the 2016 Census, conducted by Statistics Canada. Information on things like employment and income come from the “long-form” of the census that is only distributed to selected households.