07 Sep Increased student spaces at future Woodstock school good news for Hickson
A new elementary school planned for Woodstock’s north end is good news for families with children going to Hickson Public School, although the scheduled opening date is three years away.
As part of the province’s ongoing efforts to build and improve local schools, they have given the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) approval to change the new Woodstock elementary school to create more student spaces. This is supported by an investment of $25.6 million. Once completed, this expanded project will deliver 856 elementary spaces and 88 licensed childcare spaces for local families.
“The funding for additional student spaces at the new north Woodstock elementary school is great news for our community,” said Ernie Hardeman, MPP for Oxford. “This investment will ensure families and students have access to a quality learning environment in the years ahead.” The new project includes 196 additional student spaces and five new childcare rooms increasing that number to 88.
“I’m thrilled that this funding will enable us to increase the size of the future Woodstock elementary school from 660 to 856 students,” said TVDSB Director of Education Mark Fisher. “Thames Valley looks forward to enhancing our ability to support Oxford County students and families.” The new Woodstock elementary school will be located at Block 195 Sobeski Avenue.
The Gazette asked the TVDSB if the announcement was positive for students and parents at Hickson Public School. Cheryl Weedmark, Communications Manager at TVDSB, said Woodstock residents will benefit. “This is great news for Oxford as students in Woodstock will be able to be accommodated at a proximal school in their home community.” Weedmark did say the hike in Woodstock’s population led to the move. “The level of development activity has been increasing, with a number of new projects being planned in north Woodstock since the business case was first submitted. We are thrilled to receive this additional funding to support the growth in Oxford.” She added anyone interested can follow the new school’s progress. “We are currently working towards a September 2026 opening. As we move through the process, we will have a better idea of the construction start date.” The website at https://www.tvdsb.ca/en/our-board/new-woodstock-school.aspx will provide updates.
Many parents have expressed concerns about the school’s septic system, an issue that came to light during the last school year when E-coli and fecal matter were found in pooled water in the yard and a report from East Zorra-Tavistock said the septic bed was failing. Several orders were issued to rectify the problem as daily pumping was ordered and continues to be done. “We have engaged with an engineering consulting firm to assist with the upgrades to the system. Geotechnical investigation and review are ongoing to inform next steps at this time,” said Weedmark. There is no word on when the septic system will be replaced.
The Gazette also asked Weedmark regarding the portable situation for the opening week of school in Hickson and what the enrolment numbers will be but didn’t receive an answer. “We won’t have official enrolment numbers available until mid-November. New families in North Woodstock are attending Zorra Highland Park which has created some enrolment pressure relief at Hickson.” Enrolment at Hickson Public School jumped from 395 students in 2012 to 667 last year resulting in multiple portables being installed over the years.
Minister of Education Steven Lecce said Ontario is taking action to ensure that school board capital assets are used effectively and efficiently to meet the needs of growing communities, support student learning, and ensure value for taxpayer dollars. “The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act will empower decision-makers to build modern schools faster by better utilizing school capacity, reducing barriers for school boards to facilitate agreements for schools in multi-use buildings such as condo towers, and shortening planning time by requiring school boards to use certain designs or plans when constructing, renovating, or making additions to schools.” He added that the province is determined to build schools and expansions faster, part of the commitment to modernize schools in fast-growing communities. “We are proud to deliver this critical expansion to the capacity of the new Woodstock elementary school for local families, along with increasing funding, staffing, and tutoring to help ensure students graduate with confidence that they can succeed in good-paying careers.”