Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

 

Plans for Downtown St. Catharines School Take Important Step Forward 

A new public elementary school serving downtown St. Catharines will officially open its doors to students, their families and the community in September 2015, following an agreement this week between the City of St. Catharines and the District School Board of Niagara.

City Council approved the agreement during the in camera portion of its Monday meeting and the DSBN Board of Trustees ratified the agreement at its meeting Tuesday.

“This is an important milestone that will make this new school a reality for students and their families in central St. Catharines,” said Warren Hoshizaki, Director of Education. “The new school will be an outstanding educational facility and a community hub that will serve the needs of both students and area residents for decades to come.”

“This partnership with the DSBN ensures we keep a school in our downtown which is vital for attracting more families to the heart of our city,” said Mayor Brian McMullan. “It will also help us to achieve goals identified in our Creative Cluster Master Plan for future growth, urban intensification and downtown revitalization.”

The two-storey facility will be built on the existing Alexandra Public School property at 84 Henry St. Once completed, the state-of-the-art building will offer students modern educational amenities. Spacious classrooms flooded with natural light, a learning commons where students can access resources using a variety of technologies, and for students enrolled in the full-day early learning Kindergarten program, there will be a separate gated play area and program entrance.  

The new school will also integrate and honour important features of the past. The DSBN will preserve the 102 year-old Beech tree situated on Henry Street, and will work with the City’s Heritage Committee to identify items of historical significance and incorporate them into the design of the new building.

“This Board has fostered strong mutual collaborations with municipalities throughout Niagara to energize education. We are pleased that our work with the City of St. Catharines will result in a school that has enhanced facilities for community use as well, “said Kevin Maves, Chair of the Board. Ongoing discussions about a vast double-gym for student and community use, as well as a large community room for after-hours programs and services are positive.

Under the terms of the agreement between the City and the Board, George Street between Dufferin and Pleasant avenues will be closed to vehicle traffic beginning in May 2014. The area will form part of the new schoolyard along with a portion of the adjacent Catherine Street Park, including the existing soccer pitch. The existing dog park will remain part of the park, however it will be separate from the school play area.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   To ensure the safety of students during school hours a fence will be erected around the perimeter of the expanded school yard. Gates will be installed to allow public access during non-school hours, generally weekends and weekdays after 4 p.m.  Once built, the City will have priority use of the new school’s gymnasium for community recreation and leisure programming outside of school hours.

The DSBN expects to tender the project in the spring of 2014, with an official groundbreaking ceremony to follow in June.