The new Angus high school could be a place of learning for more than just students.
The Simcoe County District School Board and Essa Township are having ongoing discussions to build a new branch of the town’s public library in the school. Nothing has been finalized yet, but if the project does move forward it would be accessible to students and members of the public, said Lou Brandes, associate director and superintendent of facility services for the school board.
"We’re really pleased to have the collaboration," Brandes said. "It would be full-time use by both populations. We’ve seen examples of how it works in other communities."
Essa trustee Rob North said the Essa school will be a new format for the SCDSB, but the idea of integrating community services into schools is becoming increasingly popular in other areas. He said sharing of the library would allow the township and the school board to supply the better resources for students and the community at a lower price, by avoiding duplication of resources and overhead costs.
"It’s a change for Simcoe County somewhat, but there are other municipalities out there that have done this very successfully. You do what you can with the money you have allotted, and you try to maximize it for the taxpayer," said North.
The resource sharing will allow both sides to save money, something that has been holding up construction of new Angus library branch for a few years.
For the past two years, the new library has been left out of township’s budget, and it has been turned down for federal grant money. It was recently turned down in a grant application that would have allowed the township to build a stand-alone building with a price tag of over $3 million. With the lack of funding for a stand-alone building, the option of putting the library in the school is a good one, said Essa Mayor David Guergis.
"We think it is a tremendous opportunity. For governments at different levels to work together, it’s a tremendous way to save money."
School planners aren’t stopping with just the library though. They’re also looking at incorporating a Nottawasaga OPP satellite office in the school. There is already an extended services office in Angus, but school board, OPP, and township officials are discussing possible options, which could include moving that office.
Many Ontario high schools, including Banting Memorial High School in Alliston, have liaison police officers that work closely with students and school staff. North said this is an opportunity to expand that relationship.
"I think it’s a great idea. We already have community officers in our schools, so having a small touchdown station for them makes perfect sense," said North.
School board officials are still finalizing plans for the building, including choosing a site. Brandes said a public meeting is planned for later this spring. The school is scheduled to open by 2012.
E-mail reporter Kurtis Elsner at [email protected]