Barrie Central: Sense of satisfaction
The lunch bell rang and hundreds of smiling, sun-tanned students broke from class into the hallways of Barrie Central Collegiate as if were any other June school day.
This day, however, a reprieve in the form of a decision from the Simcoe County District School Board to keep Central open - and open to partnerships within the community - left many with a sense of satisfaction as the school year comes to a close.
Principal Russell Atkinson, who was on his way out the door to the OFSAA rugby tournament Wednesday, took a few minutes to share his relief at the board's decision.
"During this process, the community spoke about the importance of Barrie Central in the heart of the downtown," he said. "The decision by the board takes that into account and allows the opportunity for the municipality, Georgian College and private enterprise to partner with us to build something tremendous."
Without mentioning the details of the partnerships, Atkinson said he was heartened by the credibility of the people who've offered to help save and salvage Barrie's downtown school.
"With (Georgian College president) Brian Tamblyn, Mayor Jeff Lehman and Jamie Massie on board, it's very impressive for our school and a tremendous partnership for the city."
Several senior students who stopped to speak about their future plans and their experience at the school, all pinpointed various attributes they'd appreciated during their four-year high school careers.
Rachel Gray, 18, is in her last month of high school and plans to attend the University of Western Ontario in the fall to start her bachelor of science degree.
Gray said she enjoyed the weekly Monday meetings - called the Order of the Phoenix - that was run by a group of students dedicated to saving Central.
"They were inspiring, they never gave up and they made us proud of Central," she said.
Standing near the front doors that offer a rare glimpse of Kempenfelt Bay, Gray said Central's location is key to its success.
"The downtown is our main thing in Barrie. We could go buy lunch and walk to the beach.
"Other schools are confined to their cafeterias for lunch. We have so much close to the school to go to. It's just been really convenient to go downtown."
Ready to head off to the rugby game, Braden Atkinson, 19, said he has enjoyed the positive atmosphere and unique relationships students have with the staff at Central.
"I've been inspired by my teachers, by Mr. (Mike) Ramsay in history. He really made it come alive for me," said Atkinson, who plans to study humanities at McMaster University and then work on a teaching certificate.
"I wanted to be a teacher at Central, but then when the whole ARC (accommodation review committee) meetings came around, they put a dark light on that. Now, it's still an option for me."
Grade 12 student and rugby player Ian Jones was also pleased.
"As an athlete, I'm excited to carry on the school's athletic history," he said.
Phoenix basketball favourite, Nick Berardi, 18, said he plans to go to Western University to take a general arts program while playing basketball this fall.
"The coaching staff has really helped me a lot with my basketball skills, obviously, but they've taught me to be a student first and then an athlete," said Berardi. "It's been a roller-coaster ride this year with the whole ARC thing, but we saw a lot of support from the alumni, who came out to show their support for Ce ntral.
"I feel it's really a central part of Barrie now."
"It's the best news at this point. A partnership with someone like Georgian College would have limitless potential," said head librarian Joanna Gilewicz.
- with files from Mark Wanzel