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New life for Barrie Central

Central School for the Arts in downtown Barrie will attract attention from far and wide
Damian Spaulding is a music teacher who wants to transform Barrie Central into Central School for the Arts.

When Barrie Central Collegiate is listed for sale, music teacher Damian Spaulding will be first in line to purchase the property.

The director of Spaulding School of Music wants to transform the 150-year-old building into a school of the arts offering drama, dance and music blended with academic courses for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

His aggressive timeframe includes purchasing the property from the Simcoe County District School Board by the end of June, completing renovations and upgrades over the summer and opening Central School of the Arts in September, 2016.

Central Collegiate is closing at the end of June, after the Board declared the property "prohibitive to repair", partly due to the need for a new HVAC heating system.

The property is not yet for sale, but a Board spokesperson told BarrieToday that a real estate agent is working to set a price and the listing will be up shortly.

Spaulding plans to launch a $12-million fundraising campaign to purchase the property at an estimated price of $6 million, complete extensive renovations and market the school to the world.

"We know our plan is very aggressive," said Damian Spaulding, owner of Spaulding Schools for the Arts.

"It will happen. We will turn this into the coolest and the most dynamic experience that ever hit Central Ontario."

Demand for an arts school is "through the roof" in Barrie and the facility would attract students from across Central Ontario, he says.

"We have already be getting requests from across Simcoe County, Muskoka and outside the area. People would be coming from Toronto for this."

Supportors are encouraged by rising enrolment at after-school arts programs offered by Spaulding Schools for the Arts which have doubled consistently each year since 2012. Programs are currently offered in Barrie, Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and Midland.

A full-time day school program for all ages is "the next logical step," he said.

"I have combined some of our communities greatest talents in the areas of business, teaching, finance, etc., in order to buy the facility of Central Collegiate and transform the facility into a new world-class K to 12 School of The Arts," he said.

Fundraising has begun and millions of dollars will be needed in the coming months and to make this dream come true for our community.

He expects money to come a variety of sources - from wealthy individuals who support the arts or education with large donations to business owners who can organize fundraising events or donate a share of proceeds to individuals.

"This is where the community comes together . . .  not just as a whole, but as strategic individuals as well," Spaulding explained.

"There are multiple ways of raising funds - local and outside the area into Toronto where there are many individuals who are known to support the arts.

Students have already committed to attending the new Central and teachers are signed up for September's start.

"This is a private school, but our goal is to make it affordable to everyone who wants to join us," Spaulding said. "There are several who are excited to leave their present school location in order to join our new teaching revolution."

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Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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