Local mom tackles Connaught problems head on

A Cathedral Area parent has launched a fundraising campaign to finance the repairs needed to keep Connaught School open in September. Kate Smart decided to take action after learning it would cost only an estimated $20,000 to satisfy an engineer’s recommendation for safe school operations in 2014-2015.

“I have a child who is about to start school, so I need to make sure there’s a school for her to attend,” said Smart. The mother of two picked a home a few blocks away from Connaught School to ensure her children could walk to a neighbourhood school.

But Connaught’s future is in jeopardy after an engineering report recommended immediate repairs to the front steps, along with installation of some braces in a portion of the school’s southeast corner.

The school board has indicated on several occasions it doesn’t wish to maintain upkeep of the historic school, hoping instead for government funding for a new replacement in an undetermined location. A new school would be completed by 2017 at the earliest, depending on funding, and would possibly be a larger combined Catholic-Public P3 school.

The board now has the choice of investing $20,000 to keep the current school open at least one more year, or to close it in June. Smart hopes to fundraise half the amount using the crowd-funding website Indiegogo.

“Parents I talk to aren’t even aware the school is closing. They need more time than a few months to reorganize their lives,” said Smart. “If we do these small repairs, there will be a year to sort things out and perhaps explore more sustainable long-term options.”

“To send a school to the landfill before there’s a clear replacement plan will cause the school community to break up and scatter around the city. Parents won’t want to put their kids on a bus to a distant location if there’s no guarantee they will ever return to a new school in Cathedral,” said Smart. “They will either pick the closest school they like, or move out of the neighbourhood.”

Smart said she hoped the board would take community contributions as a sign of good faith and agree to work in closer partnership with the local community, rather than making decisions in a silo.

“I hope my campaign will not only raise funds, but also awareness that there are some repair options. Closing the school in June is a choice, not a certainty. If the community wants it open, the community needs to show it is willing to act.”

Donors can find the campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com under the name “Give a school braces.” There will be an open house launch celebration at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre on Sunday, March 2 from 1 to 3 p.m.

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1 Comment

  1. lois Mitchell

     /  February 28, 2014

    If they say it would cost 20,000 (really??they would discard a historic building for want of 20,000? and then spend a millon building anew one?), it could probably be repaired for less…..there are builders in the community as well..Bravo, Kate Smart!.


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