I was looking over the handout I was given during the information session for the Argyle Park/Englewood extension last week and a number I had completely overlooked jumped out at me and gave me pause: 547 Public elementary Students, 60% of the 912 elementary aged students listed on the handout under Demographic Information. There were 365 separate school elementary aged students as well, 40% of the total, which seem like a lot of children to add. There is one Catholic Elementary School St. Timothy and one Public Elementary School, Dr. L.M. Hanna currently in Argyle Park/Englewood. I did a preliminary dig into some numbers and spoke with city administration to find out if this is an issue or not.
The proposed population of the new development is listed on 4046 (Handout online) and along with the 912 elementary students there would be 304 secondary school students. Focusing on elementary aged students, the above population estimate would put the proportion of elementary aged students at about 22% of the total. Now, there’s no indication of where these figures come from and no sense how representative they are.
So I looked at data from the 2001 neighbourhood profiles for the two nearest neighbourhoods, Argyle Park/Englewood to the south and Walsh Acres/Lakeridge to the West, to see what their proportions had been recently. Unfortunately the City still hasn’t put their 2006 neighbourhood profile data online.
In 2001 Argyle Park/Englewood had, according to the city, 3990 people in total and roughly 670 of those were 5-14 years of age or a proportion of about 17%. Walsh Acres/Lakeridge in the same year had 7100 people, 1150 of which were 5-14 or close to 16%. The city in total had 175605 people in 2001, and almost 14% of them, 24490 people were 5-14 years of age.
Unsatisfied with such old data I went looking to see if there was anything more current elsewhere. I was hesitant at first to use census data for two reasons, the first was 2001 census tract data (areas with 2500-8000 people [statscan]) wasn’t available online and secondly I thought census tracts wouldn’t match city defined neighbourhoods. Having a look, however, it turns out the 2006 data is available online at the census tract level and that the boundaries on these tracts often correspond quite well to those at the City. Still, the total population numbers are different for the city and census in 2001, so comparing the two together isn’t completely straight-forward.
In 2006 Argyle Park and Englewood (Census Tract 7050028.02) 3835 people lived there, 645 of them 5-14 or about 17%. Walsh Acres (7050028.03) had 4430 people and about 12% 540 people school aged and Lakeridge (7050100.04) had 580 children out of 4255 total or nearly 14%. Combined, as they are in the city, Walsh Acres and Lakeridge had 8685 people, 1120 of which were aged 5-14 for a proportion close to 13%.
For the city as a whole statscan gives both the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) which includes surrounding towns and City results. In 2001 the city of Regina had 178225 people (As an example of inconsistency The City of Regina gives 175605 as the 2001 population) and 24475 of those were 5-14 years old, nearly 14%. For the CMA there were 192800 people, 26950 of which were elementary school aged or about 14%.
How you calculate the number of children, as you’ve seen, can be contentious. The 22% coming out of the Concept Plan is quite different from 12% from the 2006 census, which with 4046 people would see nearly 485 students, not 912. But how valid are those demographic claims? And what’s the time line for development?
Community Planner Ben Mario, with the Planning and Sustainability Department at the City of Regina, feels the population numbers for elementary aged children are “on the optimistic side.” He points to trends in an aging population throughout the city and the higher proportion of multi-family dwellings in the neighbourhood which, in general, means smaller families. The population per dwelling is also higher in this plan than in other concept plans Mr. Mario has seen lately. Indeed, the City planner feels it may take 15 years for the neighbourhood extension to be fully developed. He mentions that composition of Argyle Park/Englewood has a large 25-30 year old component (near-future parents?) and the School Board says Dr. LM Hanna School has a stable population. The dwelling composition also lends to stability with the variety of types promoting a less severe boom (new families) bust (empty nester) cycle seen in other suburban areas.
The bottom line seems to be that Dr. LM Hanna and St. Timothy, which has a population of 153 pre K to grade 8 students, will see growing populations if this development goes through. Growth is not likely, however, to out-strip the Argyle Park/Englewood schools’ capacity in the near term. With 10-15 years before completion there is time for school boards to embark on in-depth studies and make changes.
On the other hand the North West sector has seen growth in the last 10 years; Lakeridge, according to Statscan, had 2375 people in 2001 and 4255 in 2006 a change of roughly 1880 people in 5 years. Communities can grow quickly, and perhaps with a sunny economic upswing, growth could come quite fast. There are also questions on how representative the 2006 census data is because it was collected before the “boom.” Are city levels of around 12% and local levels in the mid teens valid after the last two years?
I can see a scenario where over crowding creates the possibility of sending children to nearby schools. To my mind, with Pasqua St. and the Ring Road acting as barriers to young children, this could place an emphasis on driving/busing rather that walking. That’s my worst fear case, although the evidence suggests its unlikely.
The main lesson I’ll take from writing this post is demographic uncertainty, especially when it comes to evaluating numbers in reports and presentations. Is this difference significant? By the sounds of it not really, the concept plan still has to be approved after all, still area residents and concerned citizens should keep on top of the school question. My thanks to Ben Mario for answering my questions and encouraging discussion on this concept plan.