Public school board seeking input into design of new high school

 

By Ron Giofu

A site has yet to be announced for the new public high school, but the Greater Essex County District School Board wants input on what the public wants the school to look like.

The public school board has posted a survey to its website (www.publicboard.ca) as well as the websites of General Amherst High School, Western Secondary School and all public elementary schools in Essex County asking for feedback on “the way they feel the school could prepare students for the future and how this new building can play a role in the community.”

Scott Scantlebury, public relations officer with the Greater Essex County District School Board, noted that all elementary schools in Essex County were included in the survey due to the fact that there are students who may consider the specialized IPRC learning program that is offered at Western Secondary School.

Scantlebury noted the survey is “generally about design” with questions designed to be open-ended. The first question centres on what the public believes is important in a school to prepare students for the future.

General Amherst High School

General Amherst High School

Scantlebury said that could include classroom spaces, technology, skilled trades opportunities and other amenities that could assist student learning.

“Those are the kinds of ideas we are looking for,” he said.

There is a “general site plan template,” Scantlebury noted, but the size of the school will also be determined by whatever site is chosen. The second question is regarding layout of the building, he stated.

“Since this is the consolidation of two school communities, there could be varying opinions of what the layout should look like,” said Scantlebury.

Whether Western students and General Amherst students would have their own specific parts of the building has not been decided yet, Scantlebury added, though public opinion through the survey could help figure that out. He noted size and budgetary considerations will also factor into that decision.

“Those things have yet to be determined,” he said.

The third question pertains to community partnerships and how the school could best serve the community.

Western Secondary School

Western Secondary School

Scantlebury indicated a decision on where the school will be located could come relatively soon.

“We are getting close,” he said of the site selection decision.

There is no timeline for a decision, he said, but the public board would like to move forward “as soon as possible.”

Potential sites have been narrowed down, Scantlebury noted. There has been talk of the school either being located at Centennial Park or as part of the Libro Centre property, but Scantlebury said he couldn’t speak on specific locations. Once a site is chosen, “it’s a matter of completing the negotiations.”

It will likely be several years before a new school is open to students.

“There are a number of steps,” said Scantlebury, noting the site plan template has to be approved by the board and province once that plan is finalized.

“Once we have acquired the land, the architects will take over the design phase,” he said.

The design phase can take anywhere from nine months to one year, he added, with the overall design also needing approval of the board of trustees and the province.

From there, the project would go to tender and the actual construction is likely to take 14-16 months.

Funding from the Ontario government for a new public high school in Amherstburg was announced Oct. 31, 2016. The Greater Essex County District School Board announced it received $23.8 million for a new public high school that will combine General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School. The new building will be able to accommodate 819 students.

The survey is open for submissions until June 9.

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