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School board looking for direction about what to do with Park Street

ROBIN MACLENNAN, SPECIAL TO QMI AGENCY

ORILLIA -- The Simcoe County District School Board says it's working with the Ministry of Education to determine whether retrofitting Park Street Collegiate Institute is a better option than building a new school.

Board officials say they are hesitant about a retrofit, given the age and accessibility barriers identified at Park Street.

"One of the things we are hoping is that they will be willing to come up and take a look at the building," said John Dance, the board's superintendent of facilities services.

The board's capital plan lists the project as the No. 1 priority and continues to call on the ministry to release the money necessary to amalgamate Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute (ODCVI) and Park Street into one high school , a move that was suggested by an accommodation review committee (ARC) in 2009.

"We received correspondence from the ministry last year and that was the first time our staff had heard (the retrofit option)," Dance said. "We are pretty sure there is going to be a solution.

"Our goal is a new building... but the ministry has not decided which thing they would give us," he added. "It is our job to convince them."

The matter was raised at the January board meeting when trustees discussed the capital plan. The plan was deferred to the Feb. 22 meeting and could be approved then.

"This is still our top priorty, our No. 1 priority," said Jodi Lloyd, trustee for Ramara, Severn and Tay townships. "It is very clear that the project funding has not been declined or refused by the ministry. They are just doing (their) due diligence to determine if it is feasible to do a retrofit."

Once a plan is approved, Dance said the board will actively search for partnership opportunities in Orillia to offset the cost of a new school or renovation.

Dance used the example of Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School, a new school in Angus that incorporated a community library into the building in partnership with the township.

Also, the ministry approved a new school building in Bradford with funding from four different sources.

The proposed $32-million project would see ODCVI and Park Street merged into a new facility on the Park Street site, a way to address the problem of declining enrolment in Orillia.

A retrofit would be less costly. "It is in our best interest to get

our plan passed," Dance said. "(Ministry officials) are completely in charge of what is approved and what isn't, so we want to work with them. If they are only willing to do the retrofit, then that is something we will have to take to the trustees."



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