No decision on fate of Elgin school

Grand Erie Distinct School Board staff is recommending the closure of Elgin Ave. Public School and building an addition onto West Lynn.The recommendation came before the board during a committee of the whole meeting on Monday in Brantford.But, a decision on how to proceed is on hold until the board receives more information on funding from the Ministry of Education.“The funding has to be there to do the right thing, but my real concern is that going to West Lynn we may lose the funding we have for Elgin, and build new, we may lose the funding. No one knows the answers,” said Grand Erie trustee Don Werden.“The scary part is, with today’s current government, funding projects is not high on their priority list.”Local parents and students will recall the plan to deal with vacant student spaces within Simcoe was originally to close West Lynn and fund significant renovations to Elgin Ave. – a proposal that included a new gym, two kindergarten classrooms, and two regular classrooms as well as fixing the facility’s accessibility and circulation issues.The board received over $6 million from the Ministry of Education to spend on the project. Another $2.5 million was through other programs. The estimated total came in at about $8.7 million.In May of last year, senior administration reported that the project would cost an additional $6 million due to a number of factors, including rising labour and material costs.The board then decided to revisit its options in November but deferred a decision until this year.“I don’t know why the original estimates were so low compared to what they came in at,” said Werden, who was elected in October. “The ministry funding that’s available, there’s just not enough to do what’s got to be done there. And I’m not supporting half of a renovation with the type of money that’s available because you’re just going to have a disaster that’s going to cost you money over the years.”Staff presented the board with five options. In addition to the recommendation of closing Elgin and renovating West Lynn Public School, they also included using reserve funding to cover the gap in cost. They could also significantly modify the Elgin renovation plan by doing a number of things, including not replacing the gym. Another modified design was tabled and removes a ‘kiss and ride’ drop off lane in front of the building and additional parking spots.The fifth option is to simply seek funding for a new school, which could mean a long delay due to the application and research process.The board could also re-visit recommendations from the South East Norfolk Elementary Accommodation Review that took place in 2016.Werden feels that the board should take a serious look a building new.“My thought right now is that the best place to have that school is where Elgin is right now,” he explained. “If I had the choice right now and we had the money I would say just take down what’s there and build a brand new (school). If you say it quick, it’s no problem, but if you want to get money for it, that’s the biggest challenge we have.”If the board went forward with renovations to West Lynn, the site would require 140 student spaces to be added as well as new grading, fencing, parking spaces and bus/parent drop off zones. The interior of the building would be subject to upgrades. The new proposal would include a child care centre, which was part of the Elgin Ave. Redesign.Adding 140 student spaces would cost about $2.7 million in addition to building upgrades that are pegged at $2.6 million. Cost and availability of land surrounding the school is also a factor.

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