Letter to Minister Lecce regarding Easthill Elementary School construction

Letter to Minister Lecce regarding Easthill Elementary School construction
Posted on 06/21/2021

On June 17, Lucille Kyle, Chair of the Board, wrote to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce to request additional funding for the construction of Easthill Elementary School in Belleville. The complete letter and pdf version are included below.

Letter to Minister Lecce requesting additional funding for Easthill Elementary School (pdf)

June 17, 2021

Dear Minister Lecce:

I am writing to express appreciation to you and the Premier for being champions of public education. I also acknowledge our staff who work behind the scenes to improve infrastructure, as well as to create beautiful and safe learning spaces for students. As you well know, the cost of building materials has increased considerably in recent years, yet the work must still go on. Public confidence in education is at its lowest right now, and we need to bring back tangible, visible projects that were anticipated and promised several years ago.

A business case was submitted to and approved by the Ministry of Education for the construction of a new school in Belleville to consolidate Queen Elizabeth School and Queen Victoria School. This was the result of an accommodation review that took place in 2016-2017. The new school is designed for 472 pupil places and a 3,600 sq. ft., 3-room childcare centre. A funding letter was received from the Ministry of Education on March 13, 2018 indicating $12,042,831 in approved funding for the new consolidated elementary school. HPEDSB retained an architect to prepare design drawings and assist with project administration. It is important to point out that the final design was arrived at after several rounds of changes and reductions to match available funding, resulting in a bare-bones school.

An amended funding request was made to the Ministry of Education for the demolition of Queen Elizabeth School, which is on the site of the new build. This was to avoid a time delay given that the demolition of Queen Elizabeth will be essential to the completion of the new Easthill Elementary School. Following Ministry review of detailed construction and site cost estimates prepared by a consultant, an amended funding letter was received from the Ministry of Education on April 28, 2021 indicating a revised total of $12,977,423 in approved funding, which includes an additional $934,592 to demolish Queen Elizabeth School and site costs. An initial cost estimate prepared for the project estimated a construction budget of approximately $11 million, plus architectural fees, applications/permit fee, commissioning, etc.

HPEDSB recently released a construction tender for the new elementary school. Construction was planned to begin this summer, with an anticipated substantial completion date of January 31, 2023. All tender submissions have come in several million dollars over the available budget, ranging from $14 million to $16.6 million. It is not possible to recommend awarding the project given the terms of the Capital Priorities funding. Project timing and budget have been impacted by COVID-19.

As chair of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, I am asking you to reconsider allowing us to proceed with constructing the new Easthill Elementary School by approving the additional funding required for this project. This project has been delayed long enough. The student's families of two schools have been excited about a new school and we cannot allow this to drag on indefinitely.

Our students need something positive to look forward to. It would be a shame to add one more disappointment to our community with everything else going on.

I urge you to provide additional funding to allow this new school to be constructed. I look forward to hearing back at your earliest opportunity.

Lucille Kyle
Chair of the Board

cc: Todd Smith, MPP, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
Sean Monteith, Director of Education