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Roadblock in the way of new school may be getting higher

A long-awaited revised site plan for a new high school in Barrie won't look much different than the original plan rejected by Barrie City Council last year, according to a Simcoe County District School Board report
school pic
Artist's rendering of a new secondary school planned for Barrie.

A long-awaited revised site plan for a new high school in Barrie won't look much different than the original plan that was rejected by council last year, according to a Simcoe County District School Board report.

Construction of the school has been delayed about two years because of the stalemate between the city and SCDSB.

The two are disputing the location of the new school, with the Board planning to build on the southern part of the property at Mapleview Drive and Prince William Way and the city demanding the building be constructed on the north side of the site.

Funding for the school was approved by the Ministry of Education in 2012, at the same time as a new secondary school in Orillia. However, the Orillia Secondary School opened in March.

A report written by superintendent of facility services at the SCDSB recommends the Board "not substantially change its site plan". John Dance will present the report to the business and facilities standing committee.

"In the fall of 2015 the SCDSB proposed a solution that included keeping the school in its current location, on the southern portion of the Board-owned property, and adding a significant structure at the intersection of Mapleview Drive and Prince William Way in hopes of satisfying the city," Dance wrote.

At a cost if about $2 million over funding provided for the school by the Ministry, Dance said it was determined that, "while not ideal, and not an identified need or Capital Priority, that a use could be found for this facility if it meant approval of the site plan could be attained."

"This solution was a compromise on the SCDSB’s part in order to get a timely resolution and still maintain a functional school." 

However, when the plan was rejected Dance says the school board "took the advice" of The Planning Partnership, a Toronto-based consultant that concluded adding a second building on the northern part of the property would not be a good option.

The consultant reviewed the city's urban design guidelines, city policy and original site plan and concluded "that a second building is not necessary and may in fact do the opposite of what the city is trying to achieve by isolating and confining the site, not meeting (Barrie's) crime prevention through environmental design principles and reducing functionality,” Dance wrote in his report.

He noted that SCDSB design and planning staff, and architects came to the same conclusion.

“A building on the street edge is not the preferred method to achieve the City of Barrie's urban design vision,” the report concludes.

If the plan is accepted by the City, Dance says there is still time to build the school in time for the 2018/19 school year.

If the plan is rejected, the Board will then choose a next step that could be an Ontario Municipal Board hearing, choosing a new location for the school or reviewing the attendance area and expanding capacity at existing secondary schools.

"The Planning Partnership is prepared to defend this proposal should the SCDSB initiate an OMB appeal," Dance wrote in his report.

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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