Kate’s letter to trustees

Oct. 24, 2013
Dear Ms. Young,

I am a resident of the Cathedral area, and the mother of two children, ages 3 and 6 months (who I plan to send to Connaught School). I have lived in this neighbourhood for most of my life, and attended Connaught School as a child. I see it as the ideal neighbourhood to raise children in, and Connaught as the ideal school to send my children to. Everyone that I speak to sees the value of Connaught School in our community, as well as its heritage value. It is a beautiful building that has educated the residents of the Cathedral neighbourhood for 100 years. From its doors have emerged doctors, lawyers, artists, social workers, world-class musicians, nurses, IT professionals, financial advisers,etc. and most importantly, citizens who are remarkably thoughtful, caring, intellectually curious and engaged in their community.

If you understand this neighbourhood, you understand that people live here because they value its history and sense of community. Our schools are integral to our community. The Board’s decision not to pursue heritage designation for Connaught School – the oldest school in Regina – without even consulting with the school community is very disappointing. Pursuing heritage status would open up the possibility of partnerships, and grants for renovation, etc. I fail to understand why the Board pursued heritage designation for schools such as Balfour, Thomson and Davin schools, which are now on the Municipal Heritage Holding Bylaw, but refuses consider it in Connaught’s case. It clearly has heritage value, and as I’m sure you know, was recognized by Heritage Canada as one of the country’s Top Ten Endangered Buildings.

I read the entire document that emerged from the community consultations, and those who attended clearly, clearly were in favour of a respectful renovation of this beautiful heritage building. There were many comments saying things like, “We are worried you are going to tear our school down”. Please listen to the residents of this community – otherwise what is the point of consulting at all? Our community voted for Carla Beck, and I believe that she is representing her community well. Other trustees may not understand our community and the desires of its residents. I encourage the Board to consult with the community about pursuing heritage status, and to truly listen to the Connaught community! The people who live here have chosen to live in century-old houses, in small lots, in a walkable neighbourhood. Residents don’t want a big, brand-new, experimental open-concept school. People have bought their house so that their children can walk – not be bussed or driven – to school at Connaught School in its present location.

I am also concerned that the Board has not pursued further investigation into the structural status of Connaught, as recommended in the engineer’s report. Please allow further investigation by building conservation experts, which I understand was refused by the board. And please consider the option of a modest renovation (which was apparently not considered as an option) and I’m sure would be much less costly than a state-of-the-art open-concept renovation of a 1912 building. Especially since there has not been funding promised by the provincial government for a new build. In the event that the funding is not provided, a heritage designation would provide more options for ensuring the survival of Connaught School. The clock is ticking.The fate of our valued school is in your hands, but it truly belongs to and serves our community. We, and our children, have to live with what the Board decides. Please consult with the Connaught School community – you will find that people would love their school to receive a renovation, similar to heritage school building renovations evident across Canada, such as Connaught School in Calgary, and several Moose Jaw schools. It can be done! It can be something to be proud of! It can be done more cheaply than a new-build! Especially if you retain its classrooms, and don’t make it open-concept! And I can attest, as a former student, that Connaught School has the best of both worlds – the intimate classrooms and classmates of a traditional school, with the beautiful, expansive hallways serving as perfect open-concept space.In recent years, the Public School Board seems to have tended toward a top-down, “we know what’s best for your children” approach to planning. Please remember that it’s okay to reevaluate your positions. People are happy with this school, and would love and embrace the chance to give it a facelift and any necessary structural work. I would be very willing to have my child bussed/driven for a year to a different location if that was necessary. Every parent who I speak with wants the school to be renovated, and does not want to send their children to a new, open-concept building. They are worried about their children falling through the cracks. And every teacher I’ve spoken to – including teachers who have taught in them currently and in the 1970s – expressed serious concerns with them. We are rate-payers, homeowners, and parents and we would like to preserve our beautiful, successful school in its present site and building.

Please reconsider your position against pursuing heritage designation, and please make an effort consult with the Connaught School community. We don’t need a one-size-fits-all approach to education. There is strength in examining all possibilities. It’s okay to bend, and to reconsider. To look from a different angle. To build-up and preserve, rather than tear-down.

Sincerely,

Kate Smart

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