Staff, parents and students from Tecumseth North Central School made pleas Monday night to school board trustees to keep their school open. The Simcoe County District School Board held a meeting so trustees could hear delegations from the public before making a final decision May 27. "I believe that this board is in possession of a unique treasure in this little rural school that will be irreplaceably lost if it closes," said Anne Manning, who has taught at the school for 19 years. Manning said the closure wouldn’t have a direct impact on her, because she is retiring at the end of June 2010, the same time the school is proposed to close. Manning highlighted some of the school’s characteristics, such as its close-knit student family and its ability to teach using the rural and agricultural setting of the school. She explained one instance when pen-pal students from Newmarket were able to take a fieldtrip to the school to learn about farming. In total, over 70 members of the public were at the meeting, including several parents of students and past graduates. Many of the speakers said they wanted the school kept open because they liked its small size and it rural roots. "Tec north isn’t just a school, it is the basis of our community. These kids don’t live in subdivisions – they live on farms. The school is where they make their friends," said parent Kerri-Lynne Hill. Both she and her husband also graduated from Tec North. Not everyone at the meeting was in favour of keeping the school open though. Wendy Zwaal was a member of the Accommodation Review Committee that recommended closing the school. She said the committee was not supposed to take into consideration the quality of the teachers at the schools being examined. Many of the parents supporting Tec North touted the teachers at the school and said students received excellent support. "I believe that all schools have more in common than they have differences – good staff that are attentive (and) community support," Zwaal said. She said the ARC had to take into consideration the wellbeing of all students, not just those at Tec North. The ARC covers Tec North, Tecumseth Beeton Central School, Alliston Union Public School and Cookstown Central Public School. Under the ARC recommendation, Alliston Union would be rebuilt and the other two schools would be renovated. Students from Tec North would be distributed between the three schools. Some Tec North parents said the ARC system was flawed and pitted the different schools and parents against each other. Marianne Franklin, who was a parent representative for Tec North on the ARC, said the representatives of other schools were looking out for their own best interests when they recommended closing the rural school. Other ARC members denied the allegation and said they were offended by some of the negative comments made towards ARC members and the other schools themselves. "I think when a school is recommended to be closed people clutch at straws and will do whatever they can to change the outcome," said Doug Kowalinski, a Tec Beeton representative. "I think they were passionately against (the closure) for reasons of the heart. They didn’t look at it realistically…" Kim Berek, the Alliston Union parent rep, said she is upset the potential school closure is getting more exposure than another part of the recommendation, which is building a new school to replace Alliston Union. "The entire process is almost being hijacked by an attempt to keep the school open," she said. After the meeting, trustees said they were waiting to hear more delegations, scheduled for tonight (Thursday), before making any decisions. Most of tonight’s delegations are expected to be in support of the other schools in the ARC. The final vote on the recommendation to close the school is May 27. If the school is closed, it does not guarantee if or when money from the province will be made available for construction of a replacement for Alliston Union. Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story contained errors regarding the date of the final vote on the closure and how construction and renovations to the schools could be funded. The Herald regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.
Orillia-area communities are scrambling to meet a rapidly approaching deadline for a pair of government programs that stand to unleash billions in infrastructure dollars. City and township officials learned just last week that municipalities have until May 1 to submit project applications for the recently announced Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Applications for the second round of a separate federal/provincial infrastructure fund are due on the same day. “It is a quick turnaround,” Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop said. Dunlop warned that communities would be challenged to meet the deadline. “My worry is some will be disqualified, because they won’t have accurate applications because they did them so quickly,” he said. Confusion over Oro-Medonte’s previous application to the Building Canada Fund for a proposed expansion of the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport led to just such a scenario, Dunlop believes. “Because Barrie is a funding partner (in the airport) and they have a population of over 100,000, it put them out,” he said, noting the program was intended for smaller communities. Mayor Harry Hughes says the township will apply to the stimulus fund in a bid to secure $10 million for the airport’s planned upgrades. The new program does not limit applications based on population, he noted. “We won’t get caught in the population numbers that way,” he added. Township staff was to recommend other projects for possible consideration on Wednesday evening. “We have no shortage of things,” said Hughes, naming a deteriorating bridge/culvert as a potential candidate. The township is not in a position to apply for recreation projects, he added “Our recreation master plan has not been finalized yet,” he added. “We aren’t there yet to know where we would want to go.” Both funding programs provide two-thirds of project costs, and require provincial and municipal contributions. Orillia council on Monday picked four projects based on staff recommendations. One will be submitted for consideration under the Building Canada Fund, and the remainder under the stimulus fund. The projects are: a rehabilitation of Albany Avenue; upgrades to Colborne Street from Front to Dunedin street; more than $5 million in improvements to Orillia’s waterfront parks; and the implementation of a master plan for Tudhope Park. Among the other projects considered but ultimately rejected by Orillia council was a proposal to replace 3,300 streetlights with energy-efficient lights at a cost of $2 million. “It has a long-term benefit on power consumption and greening our hydro consumption,” argued Coun. Ralph Cipolla. Dunlop is urging municipalities to go for the gold. “All the federal money is deficit money, all the provincial money is deficit money, so you’ve got to get as much for your area as you can, because your kids are paying for it anyway,” he added. The Infrastructure Stimulus Fund is open to projects that could not have been undertaken in 2010 without government assistance. As a result, a twin pad arena already approved for west Orillia is ineligible, staff said.
A woman dressed as Bat Girl climbed to the top of the water tower at the Cookstown Outlet Mall jut before noon Saturday and unfurled a banner in the name of Fathers for Justice. Firefighters from Bradford West Gwillimbury used an aerial ladder truck to climb to an upper platform of the tower to bring the unidentified woman down. Before the ladder was raised a lone firefighter climbed up the tower’s metal and spoke with the woman for about 10 minutes. A large banner the woman hung from the side of the tower, which overlooks Highway 400, proclaimed the cause of Fathers for Justice, a group that has criticized Ontario’s Family Court system as being unfair to divorced fathers. The banner read: Parental Alienation Awareness; Love is For Everyone. Mayor Mike MacEachern of New Tecumseth and Mayor Tom Walsh of Adjala-Tosorontio both made the proclaimations. The woman was escorted down the fire truck’s ladder as dozens of mostly bemused spectators looked on. When she reached the parking lot she was immediately arrested by South Simcoe Police officers, who escorted her to a waiting cruiser. A mall maintenance worker said it wasn’t clear how the woman managed to access the tower’s ladder to carry the large banner to the top. The ladder is locked from the bottom and is raised six feet from the ground for safety reasons. April 25 is Parental Alienation Awareness Day. The group Fathers 4 Justice Canada hosted an event to raise awareness for their cause last Saturday at Zehr’s in Alliston where a similar banner was displayed. Over the past two weeks representatives of Fathers 4 Justice have attended local municipal council meetings and asked for proclamations setting aside April 25 as Parental Alientation Awareness Day. The 49-year-old Alliston woman is now facing charges of mischief as a result of the stunt. She was released on a Promise to Appear and a Recognizance with several conditions. She will appear in a Bradford Court on May 28 to answer to the charge.
Two longtime supporters of Midland-area charities have been named honorary patrons of Community Living Huronia’s 2009 Dreams to Reality campaign. Alexandra and Reinhart Weber are well-known for their support of CLH and many other causes and community organizations, including the Huronia Players and the Midland Public Library. The Dreams to Reality campaign officially kicks off May 26. Its goal is to raise $130,000. Every year, funds generated through the campaign support CLH’s volunteer program, early childhood readiness programs and the summer teen camp. This year, campaign proceeds will also go toward the purchase and modification of two passenger vans needed for many physically challenged CLH clients. The vans will have special seats that turn, allowing passengers to enter and exit with greater ease.
The Simcoe County District School Board and its elementary school teachers have come to a tentative agreement. Details of the agreement won’t be made available until both sides ratify it. Teachers are scheduled to vote on the agreement May 4. The board employs more than 2,000 elementary school teachers. The school board and the union representing occasional teachers came to a separate tentative agreement April 10. The board ratified it April 22 and the teachers ratified it April 28. The two elementary school teachers locals are the last of the seven union groups in the SCDSB to come to a contract agreement. Earlier this year the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario threatened strike action if the province’s school boards did not provide what it called "suitable contract offers."