Sale of school good news for com­mu­nity

Orleans Star - - EDITORIAL & OPINION - Pa­tri­cia LON­ER­GAN An­other Take

The halls of Q u e e n s w o o d Pub­lic School, once filled with lit­tle feet and the ex­u­ber­ance of youth, will not sit quiet for very long.

Af­ter be­ing closed for a year, the for­mer Ot­tawaCar­leton District School Board’s for­mer fa­cil­ity will swing its door open to con­tinue of­fer­ing chil­dren the tools they need to suc­ceed in life. In­stead of pub­lic school board chil­dren roam­ing the halls, youngsters from the French Catholic school board will make their mark on a build­ing that served area youth for 39 years be­fore com­mu­nity mem­bers bid adieu to the school in June, 2008.

The fate of Queenswood Pub­lic was tied di­rectly to the com­mu­nity. A ma­ture neigh­bour­hood, Queenswood Heights saw a drop in el­e­men­taryaged chil­dren. As such, the area couldn’t sup­port two lo­cal ele­men­tary schools.Af­ter a long and ar­du­ous process that in­cluded pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions with com­mu­nity mem­bers and par­ents, the pub­lic board de­cided to close the JK-6 Queenswood Pub­lic and shift most of the stu­dents to neigh­bour­ing Dun­ning-Fou­bert, which of­fers a JK-8 pro­gram.

The pur­pose be­hind the move was to cre­ate sta­bil­ity and vi­a­bil­ity, boost­ing pro­gram of­fer­ings for all stu­dents. While split grade classes still ex­ist, the in­fa­mous triple-split grade classes have van­ished thanks with the boost in Dun­ningFou­bert’s en­rol­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Or­léans-Cum­ber­land OCDSB trus­tee John Shea, whose area in­cluded both schools, the switch from Queenswood Pub­lic to Dun­ning-Fou­bert has gone well. With one suc­cess­ful year of tran­si­tion un­der the belt, there’s lit­tle doubt the com­bined schools pop­u­la­tion at Dun­ning-Fou­bert will thrive and a stronger school with bet­ter pro­gram­ming will emerge.

The build­ing and abun­dant greenspace at the old school, how­ever, left some cause for con­cern. A hub of com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity, as any school is, the fate of the prop­erty would di­rectly im­pact the neigh­bour­hood. Res­i­dents were for­tu­nate, though, that two pub­lic en­ti­ties had ex­pressed in­ter­est in the fa­cil­ity early on, mean­ing it was un­likely from the start a de­vel­oper would swoop in and rede­fine the land­scape.

Or­léans Coun. Bob Monette’s of­fice had in­di­cated the city had an in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing the prop­erty to turn it into a com­mu­nity hub. He spent months or­ga­niz­ing non-profit groups in an­tic­i­pa­tion of cre­at­ing a one-stop so­cial net­work for area res­i­dents.

While plans to bring lo­cal groups like SKETCH Or­léans, the Or­léans-Cum­ber­land Com­mu­nity Re­source Cen­tre and the Or­léans Mul­ti­cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion un­der one roof were foiled, the ul­ti­mate out­come is still a boon for the com­mu­nity.

Un­der a dif­fer­ent name, the fa­cil­ity will con­tinue to op­er­ate as a school and, as such, will still be a hub for com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity. The gym, play­ground and park land will re­main ac­ces­si­ble. And over 200 stu­dents will ben­e­fit from an im­proved learn­ing fa­cil­ity.

In the end, the sale is noth­ing but good news for a com­mu­nity that might have lost a school, but gained an­other in its place.

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