The provincial government announced funding this afternoon for new elementary schools in Innisfil and Shanty Bay.
Thursday's announcement is part of the province's $500-million plan to build 30 new schools in Ontario and complete upgrades at 15 others, as well as add nearly 900 new licensed child-care spaces.
The province has given Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board approval to proceed with the tender for a new elementary school in Innisfil, which will also include new child-care rooms.
“When I speak to parents, I hear the importance they place on having more schools in our community so their children can spend less time on the school bus and more time in the classroom,” Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin said in a release. “Today’s announcement of funding for a new school in Innisfil is wonderful news for our community.
"This investment will provide memories and academic success for generations of students," she added. "The inclusion of 49 new licensed child-care spaces will be a relief for parents struggling to find care close to home."
Meanwhile, just north of Barrie in Oro-Medonte Township, the province will provide the Simcoe County District School Board with $5.9 million to build a new facility to replace Shanty Bay Public School, which has 190 students.
Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey says small schools are "the heart of our community, especially in places like Shanty Bay."
“This project is a direct result of the advocacy of parent groups within the Shanty Bay school community," Downey said in a release. "That passionate community spirit is what makes small schools such an integral part of our rural communities.
"This new school will continue to foster that local community spirit within a new and modern learning facility."
Oro-Medonte Township Mayor Harry Hughes said: “The provincial government has stood behind its commitments to recognize the importance of rural schools and maintaining vibrant communities."
Simcoe County District School Board trustees reluctantly voted last September to include a new Shanty Bay school among the 10 capital projects it submitted to the province for approval.
As a result of uncertainty out of Queen’s Park over school class sizes and the difficulty of acquiring land in the southern part of the county within the tight timelines imposed by the province, “urgently needed” schools in Bradford and Alcona have been removed from the list.
Here’s the list of schools, in priority order, trustees approved:
- New Bradford South elementary school
- Banting Memorial High School replacement school
- Lake Simcoe Public School addition
- Killarney Beach Public School addition
- New Angus elementary school
- New Alliston elementary school
- New Orillia elementary school
- New Barrie #1 Southeast elementary school
- New Barrie #1 Southwest elementary school
- Shanty Bay Public School Replacement School
The inclusion of a new Shanty Bay elementary school generated the most controversy at last September's business and facilities standing committee meeting in Midhurst.
Prior to the meeting, a pair of Oro-Medonte residents — Alastair Connolly and Sue Harrison — made an impassioned plea to trustees urging them to demolish Shanty Bay Public School and construct a larger facility on the site.
The duo asked to make the presentation when they learned a new Shanty Bay school was not originally among the board’s 10 priorities. In recent weeks, board staff had shifted gears to “better align” with the province’s priorities and included the request for a new Shanty Bay school.
— With files from Dave Dawson