Board, town battle over old and new

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

The town and the school board are dealing with two separate issues that affect Niagara-on-the-Lake public school students.

One is the fight that continues to keep Niagara District Secondary School, the town's only high school, open, despite the school board's intractable and to most outrageous decision to close it.

The other is the new elementary school that has been promised for students of Col. John Butler and Virgil, two aging buildings deemed in such disrepair they must be replaced.

Originally, there was some hope a new school could be ready to accommodate students by September 2010, built with money already promised from the province. But the glitch-the board has decided to purchase property that is not zoned for a school and requires a severance, and the town has so far refused both. Unless that decision changes, the likely result will be an Ontario Municipal Board hearing to decide the outcome, at great cost to the town and the school board, and a delay of at least a year and possibly two before the new school can proceed.

Some parents, and some town councillors, believe a new school on the DSBN's NDSS property would save taxpayer dollars and be a large, central location. Others prefer the Line 2 location. Town councillors have so far maintained they want control over where a school can be located, and they want residential development on that Line 2 property. And some politicians are understandably angry at the board and not about to hand them anything on a platter. Rezoning that property would seem to be giving up on the possibility of a new high school and elementary school on the NDSS property, and nobody is giving up on anything just yet.

The two elementary schools deemed decrepit have served local children well for decades, and it seems will have to continue to do so until this battle is played out, either with a decision from the Ontario Municipal Board, a change of heart from town councillors, or school trustees giving taxpayers a break and building on the property they already own.

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