News Local

School support extends to ideas

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

MIDHURST -- Supporters of a proposed Elmvale community campus, which would be centered around a renewed Elmvale District High School (EDHS), gave Simcoe County District School Board trustees an update of their progress Wednesday night.

SERVE (Springwater Elmvale Rural Voices for Education) chairperson Michelle Hunter made a delegation at the board's business and facilities standing committee meeting.

About 540 students attend the school -- far more than the 357 it was designed for -- and with a history that began in 1953, it is beginning to show its age, with many classes being held in portables.

Hunter is an EDHS grad -- class of 1988 and valedictorian -- and hopes her daughter will be in the graduating class of 2025 at the school.

She and other SERVE members -- which include parents, students, community organizations and businesses -- are passionate about keeping the school a viable part of the town and surrounding area. To that end, the EDHS community shared the concept of a community campus with board staff last spring.

The possibility of providing programs at EDHS through the use of community facilities was shared with the principal, superintendent of education Anita Simpson stated in a report to the business and facilities standing committee.

The report added that board staff were engaged in discussions of appropriate program options in facilities beyond the regular campus.

Those partnerships are vital to keeping the high school viable, Hunter says.

"We're working on continuing the momentum of a community campus in Elmvale by bridging to our partners in the community. And working with you is what our committee is committed to," she told trustees. "We really want to stress community partnerships for education. Education can be innovative in a rural community."

The secondary school's central location means it is a five-or seven-minute walk to the community's amenities and services and also for community members to walk to the high school, Hunter said.

"A community campus works in a place like Elmvale because it's all laid out as a complete community. Walking is naturally promoted in our community because everything is accessible on foot."

There is a history of shared use in Elmvale, Hunter said, adding that the community has been accessing space in Huronia Centennial Elementary School

"Shared-use facilities are about students accessing municipal (and community facilities), but also about community members accessing a renewed EDHS," she said.

Sharing costs of using facilities isn't new to Springwater Township, said Mayor Linda Collins, who attended Wednesday night's meeting. "We have other joint-use agreements in place now," she said, citing the relationship between the Minesing Library and the Minesing Public School located next door.

The first stage of EDHS students using a shared facility is already underway. The school's fitness centre is expanding into the Elmvale Arena, which will increase the training area for students by 500%.

The arena is undergoing renovations in order to accommodate weight training equipment that EDHS will move and store onsite for student use.

The second stage will involve relocating the dramatic and visual arts program to the Elmvale Community Hall, a multiuse facility that offers a 250-seat theatre as well as studio, classroom and office space, Simpson said in her report.

The third stage could involve partnering with the local library, and the fourth stage could see the beautification of local storefronts, which would involve the development of a specialist high skills major in horticulture, construction and design at the school.

Hunter said space for student activities at EDHS needs to be renewed.

"Right now the pressure is for classroom space. We're reaching out to the municipality and the community for learning spaces," she said.

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