News Local

Province could save school

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

The fight to save Prince of Wales Public School still has life in it.

Barrie city council is looking to Queen's Park for specific funding for the school after the Liberal government's Simcoe Area: A Vision for Growth plan was released earlier this month.

"When the province released its growth plan for Simcoe County, they made it clear that Barrie, and especially the city centre, will be the focus for public investment," Coun. Jeff Lehman said. "Well, we need that investment now, or it's going to be a lot harder to achieve revitalization. How can we revitalize an area when the board closes both schools in the area in the space of three years?"

At tonight's council meeting, an item for discussion will request that the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing all be asked for funding in an effort to revitalize the city centre.

"Asking the province for special funding may be a long shot, but I'm hopeful that these ministries will back up their focus on downtown Barrie with an investment in schools," Lehman said.

"We are not asking the province to overturn the board decision, but to provide new, directed funding, given that Prince of Wales is the one and only elementary school in a provincial urban growth centre within Simcoe County."

Lehman said the new growth allocations in Simcoe Area: A Vision for Growth make all the board's previous planning work out of date.

"They need to re-examine all the numbers before they proceed to close any schools, because everything just changed," he said, adding the school is vital to that area of Barrie.

"Prince of Wales is tremendously important to my residents, and I'm going to keep trying everything I can think of to try to keep the school open," Lehman said.

Prince of Wales parent Kevin Harradine hopes Lehman is successful.

"The decision the Simcoe County District School Board trustees made goes against that government policy ofSimcoe Area: A Vision for Growth.It doesn't make any sense," he said, while sitting on the steps of the Bradford Street school with his daughters, Hannah, a graduate of Prince of Wales, and Allison, a Grade 5 student at the school.

"They're putting money into this area. They want it to be an urban growth centre, so I hope the provincial government convinces the school board to change their minds," he said.

"We came up with all kinds of creative solutions to keep it open. There has been so much good work done by so many good people that something good has to come out of all the effort," Harradine said, adding he was in favour of a suggestion by school board trustee Mary Anne Wilson to combine Barrie Central Collegiate and Prince of Wales in a new kindergarten to Grade 12 facility that was shot down by the board.

"That would've been a perfect fit," Harradine said, adding that area of Barrie needs schools.

Although he'd rather see the building continue to be used as a school, demolishing it is not the answer.

"Instead of tearing it down, like so many other old buildings in the city, they should make use of it. I'd hate to see it go the way of so many other old buildings in Barrie. We've lost so much being torn down by poor decisions," he said.

"We wouldn't be having this discussion if we were in any other city where they celebrate their old buildings."

There is a possibility the old school could still get a heritage designation.

A report by the Heritage Barrie committee concerning properties that have not been designated, including Prince of Wales, will be referred to planning staff.

Lehman said he would support a move to have the building designated.

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School board meeting tonight

The fate of Elmvale District High School (EDHS), along with four other area high schools, will be decided tonight.

During a Simcoe County District School Board meeting, trustees will vote on the future of five area high schools: EDHS, Stayner Collegiate, Penetanguishene Secondary, Midland Secondary and Collingwood Collegiate.

A staff report delivered to the board suggested three schools would be enough for the area: Collingwood Collegiate, Midland Secondary, and a new school serving Wasaga Beach and Elmvale.

That would mean the closing of high schools in Stayner, Penetanguishene, and the existing one in Elmvale.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p. m.

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