School community wants action, not closure

Community members are calling for action to avoid the closure of Ecole Connaught Community School. An engineering consultant’s report that includes a recommendation to close the school in June was tabled at last night’s school board meeting.

“Displacing 350 students in the middle of a population boom should be the last idea on the list, not the first,” said Rene Dumont, chair of Save Our Connaught Heritage.

“For almost two years we have been calling for the board to get serious about investigating structural issues. We wanted to work with them to come up with a plan to stabilize the building and develop an affordable renovation option, so we wouldn’t end up in this state of crisis,” he said.

Building conservator June Botkin is reviewing the report on behalf of the group and will continue discussions with other experts in historic masonry construction.

“They have turned down all offers of community involvement so far, but we still hold out hope. Putting kids on buses isn’t an acceptable solution,” Dumont said. “If they can’t find a way to keep the doors open in September, it could be years, maybe never, that the kids will come back to their neighbourhood.”

Dumont noted the report contains recommendations for both immediate and long-term repairs, giving avenues to keep the school operating safely. “There are some tough issues to tackle, so let’s bring in the experts who are willing to come up with innovative solutions and alternatives. We can’t just sit around waiting for the province to make a move,” he said.

He recalled a similar closure order was once given to Davin School, but parents put up enough pressure to ensure the building was fixed over the summer and ready to receive students by September.

The Save Our Connaught group has been seeking permission for building conservationists to examine the school and develop a wider range of options beyond closure and demolition of the 100-year-old historic school.

“This is the school that best fits our neighbourhood. This is the school people have said they want. Let the experts in the school. They may have some answers,” said Dumont.

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2 Comments

  1. John Doe

     /  February 13, 2014

    I can’t believe a group of grown adults would even consider endangering their kids in an effort to save a heritage building? Insane!

    Reply
  2. You need to read the article again John Doe. For two years the SOC group has been fighting to get the board to open up the walls, do a structural assessment and take action to stabilize the building, precisely to avoid a safety crisis. That is sanity, not insanity. According to the report released, a reinforcing beam is needed in the short term (est. $20,000), and other options are suggested for longer term in this and other reports. If there is a way to safety the building (and it appears there are several options), then they should do it immediately. Right now, Connaught is the only school we have – there is nowhere else to go. Whatever their long term plan may be, we need action on structural reinforcements now, as should have been done two years ago. Continued negligence is not the answer, given the lack of options for students.

    Reply

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