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Ministry funding new schools in the county 0

Cheryl Browne

By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner

Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School Principal Chris Samis stands in the then soon-to be-completed school cafeteria at the Angus high school. Simcoe County has received funding approval from the Ministry of Education for four more schools, including a new high school in Barrie's south end. MARK WANZEL FILE PHOTO

Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School Principal Chris Samis stands in the then soon-to be-completed school cafeteria at the Angus high school. Simcoe County has received funding approval from the Ministry of Education for four more schools, including a new high school in Barrie's south end. MARK WANZEL FILE PHOTO

Simcoe County is shaking the dust off its shovels to build four new schools within the next three years.

The announcement comes from the Ministry of Education, which gave the nod to the Simcoe County District School Board and Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board to build one new high school in south-end Barrie, another in Orillia, as well as public and Catholic elementary schools in Bradford, all opening by 2016.

“This is very positive for us,” said John Dance, superintendent of facility services at the Simcoe County School District Board. “On our list of capital projects in 2012, we put in our priorities with the hope of getting them built. We're really excited that on our list, the top three were all granted.”

The south-end Barrie school was originally slated to take the load off Barrie Central Collegiate as it aged and needed extensive boiler repairs. However, a partnership struck with the City of Barrie and the public school board during accommodation review committee (ARC) meetings in 2010 left Central open to students until at least 2014.

In a memorandum presented to Barrie city councillors Monday by Carla Ladd, the city's chief administrative officer, she noted they were pleased with the number and variety of proposals submitted to the city to build everything from residential developments, educational services, recreational facilities, childcare, food and beverage services, as well as for general interest on the Central site.

“We're still proceeding and working the school board, trying to find viable partners and to move forward with Barrie Central,” said city spokeswoman Rebecca James-Reid.

The new south-end school, currently referred to as the New South Barrie secondary school, will be built in the general area of south Mapleview Drive on the east side of Yonge Street with an expected opening date of 2016, Dance said.

The Bradford South West elementary school – expected to open in 2014 — is also a growth school, taking the overflow from Fieldcrest Elementary.

The new Orillia secondary school is a replacement school for both Park Street Secondary School and Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute which will be opened on the Park Street school lands in 2015.

“In Orillia, there are two older facilities and enrolment is down from where it was a few years ago,” Dance said, adding it will be up to the community to chose a new name for the conjoined school.

The south-end Barrie and Orillia's high schools will cost $26.5 million and $27.5 million respectively. The public elementary will come in around $9.7 million.

Dance said in previous years, the ministry has approved schools that weren't considered the county's top priorities, but decisions were based on funding models at the time.

Hewitt's Creek Public School, the last public school built in Barrie, in 2009, has more than 200 children in kindergarten and Innisdale Secondary School can't handle the incoming load. It was built for 1,150 students and currently has more than 1,700.

“It's well over capacity,” Dance said. “The South Barrie (school) wasn't granted on numbers currently in the system, but the kids coming up in the schools now.”

Other items on the board's wish list to build or replace that weren't addressed by the ministry this time around, include additions to Innisfil Central Public School, Elmvale District High School, Victoria Harbour Elementary School and Nottawasaga Creemore Public School. Both Ardtrea Cumberland Beach Elementary School and Midland Secondary School, which are slated for replacement or consolidation, were also put forward to another year's budget.

“Our board has made great efforts to make capital requests that are financially sound and more importantly, based on the long-term needs of both our current and future students,” said Robert North, chairman of the Simcoe County District School Board.

The ministry also released another $9.4 million for a new Catholic elementary school in the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.

It's expected to hold 470 students and will open in September 2015.

"This is a high growth area and we have been experiencing a shortage of space in our Bradford West Gwillimbury schools," said Brian Beal, director of education at the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic board.

"We are very pleased that the Ministry of Education recognized the need for this new Catholic school. The students, staff and families in this community will benefit greatly from a new facility,” he said.

cheryl.browne@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1

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