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Canadian Publications Agreement No. 40727545

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Intermediate wing of school to be demolished as planned

 

March 31, 2017

 

BY TERRY GILLIS

 

Community representatives made one final plea to the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board Trustees to save the Lakefield District Intermediate School building at the March 23 meeting.

Delegates Lori Neill, a parent and member of LDIS school council and Cindy Windover, Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism President made presentations on behalf of the Lakefield and area community to express the overall dissatisfaction of the stakeholders with the performance of the Board in the way the whole school closer, relocation and reconstruction was handled.

In her statement, Lori Neill said that “our community and our parents do not recognize this Board for proactively and positively engaging the community and potential partners in exploring opportunities and advancing the Government and Ministry’s direction and initiatives for surplus space in our local school, LDIS.

In a letter from the Minister of Education on March 6 (2017) it was stated that “government expects school boards and communities to be making active and continual efforts to facilitate positive, inclusive relationships with each-other.” And further, “Many schools have space that is or could be used by community organizations through lease or other arrangements…”

Neill commented on several questions and answers contained within Director Hick’s report. She focused primarily on the “right sizing” of the new school by demolishing the LDIS wing, the efforts of the KPR to entertain alternatives to the demolition and the funding of the project, and most intently on the lack of communication between the board and the community.

“It is truly unfortunate that the most comprehensive communication from the Board (found in tonight’s Agenda) comes at the ‘end’ of this process creating a ‘crisis’ like environment and threatens that the school will not open this year if the demolition of the wing is delayed. That should be troubling to you as a Board. This situation was entirely avoidable.”

In her presentation to the Trustees, Cindy Windover, speaking on behalf of the broader Lakefield Community, acknowledged that the new school  “is going to be a wonderful facility and an upgrade from the current Ridpath space,” however, noted that the issues are not with the new school but with “the lack of communication concerning the proposed demolition of the surplus space in LDIS.”

Cindy informed the Board that in addition to the letter declaring that a resolution was passed by Selwyn Township requesting an extension for Expression of Interest, letters of support were also submitted by the Municipality of Trent Lakes and the Township of Douro-Dummer, along with a letter from community  stakeholder with 237 signatures.

Ms. Windover told the room full of Trustees that the reasons for the frustration felt in the community regarding the planned demolition of LDIS was lack of clear information and communication. “While a KPR Superintendent has stated that the intention to demolish this wing has been ‘out in the community since last April’ and that ‘there was a public declaration in September that the Intermediate wing wouldn’t stay;’ it was not so clear in the eyes of the public,” Cindy told the Board.

After the Board made a motion to accept the two delegations for information, Director of Education and the author of the report on the evening’s agenda, Rusty Hick, answered questions from Trustees.

After stating that the new school will be the most “positively unique” school in the board, Director Hick went through each Q & A comment in his report.

Approximately half an hour into the meeting, Rusty Hick addressed the issue that was foremost in the minds of community members: the demolition of the intermediate wing. He said that KPR staff asked the questions that the community have asked. “Quite frankly, staff did raise the questions  and ask why are we taking away a perfectly good wing of the school. We asked the questions. Perhaps we  should have asked them more publicly, or perhaps we should have shared those asking.” Hicks told the Trustees.

As was stated in earlier comments and correspondence, the primary driving force behind the removal of the building was the need for safe access and pick up and drop off for students and daycare patrons. Additionally, as the Director said, another driving force was that there was too much space. “We would have tremendously excess space and that does have an impact because we are not funded for space that is not used.”

Should the renovations be postponed -due to extending the time for Expressions of Interest- or changed as a result of leasing the surplus space, Hick says this would cause some difficulties. “In the event that there is a community use found for it, it has to be redesigned because the design we have now is designed without it.” Hick told the board that it was their architects, Moffett & Duncan Architects Inc., who said that the current design is the best possible one. He emphasized that “it wasn’t the staff pushing for this, but the architects.”

As a result of the possible redesign, “if we’re on hold with a new design, the kids would have to stay where they are now and Ridpath would have to stay open for another year,” said Hick.

The Director of education closed his comments by saying “you have my apology that things have not gone as smoothly as you would like to see, but having said that, I think that the intentions and the goal and the end product will continue to be in the best interest of the students as they always are.”

At the end of the ninety minute discussion about the intermediate wing, Trustee Diane Lloyd and  Trustee Taylor both apologized to the Lakefield and area community for the manner in which the school issues were handled.

However, at the end of the day, the Board of Trustees voted to continue with the staff recommendation which is to move forward as planned, and includes the demolition of the LDIS building.