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Feature Article - April 12, 2007

Prince Charles Public School first in line for rebuild

by Inie Platenius

The bottom line: Verona will get a brand new elementary school, and that decision originates in the bottom line figures provided by the Ministry of Education.

Glen Carson, Manager of Limestone Board’s Facilities Services Department, gave this good news message to a parent council meeting last week. “I’m pleased to come here tonight,” he said. “This is a good news item, and too often I go to these meetings with bad news.”

Flinton_build

Mr. Carson’s explanation of the process that led to this decision provides an insight into how school boards lobby the province and how sometimes that lobbying produces results. Back in 2001, Mr. Carson and others went to the province to beg for more money for building repairs in order to make up some of the shortfall resulting from the Harris government’s funding policies.

They were armed with their own study of Limestone Board schools, but the province was not convinced. “I think they thought we were exaggerating,” says Carson. Whatever the reason, the province decided to conduct its own study of building needs, hiring architects and engineers to survey “every inch of every school”.

And lo and behold! The ministry’s study found that the situation was even worse than Carson’s delegation had argued. The ministry’s next step was to fund a study to determine at what point it becomes inefficient to repair a needy school, and the bottom line is: if the cost of the repair is 65% or greater than the cost of rebuilding, the school will not be repaired. Prince Charles is at the top of the list of Limestone Board schools that will be replaced.

The process is just beginning, though, so don’t look for a new building before at least three years. In the meantime, it’s business as usual for staff and students. Among the needed repairs are: a new boiler, new heating pipes, new plumbing, and new windows (and the fact that a couple of the classrooms are actually portables that were bricked into the school sometime in the past). If any of these were health or safety hazards, they would be fixed immediately. Mr. Carson said that the old K & P trail that runs through the schoolyard limits the placement of the new building, so the very preliminary plan is to construct the new school on the site of the present track, move the students into it, demolish the present school and build a new track on that site. He strongly recommends the school stay near its present site because the water is very good there.

Although Mr. Carson limited his comments to factors affecting the Prince Charles community, the decision to rebuild PCPS is part of a much larger picture one that affects all of the schools to our north. Sharbot Lake High is also on the prohibitive to repair list, and one scenario will be to rebuild it as a K-12 facility, incorporating many of the northern elementary students. Although Verona’s school population is projected to remain fairly stable, all the populations to its north are projected to decline over the next years. One possibility is that sometime down the road, Hinchinbrooke P.S. would close, and about a third of its students would come south to Verona.

Mr. Carson stressed that school closings take a long time to process, with many opportunities for public input, and as we all have seen, parents have a different way of measuring the bottom line.

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