COMMENTARY: Why are the lights on at GV?

Something does not seem right with the Upper Canada District School Board’s “Building for the Future” plan, and it starts in Cornwall. During the last round of consolidations – the Boundary 2020 plan – the school board closed General Vanier, moving those students to St. Lawrence Secondary and Cornwall Collegiate.

But when I went to the first accommodation review plan meeting this week, it struck me odd looking down the hallway of GV as I left the auditorium. Full racks of lights blazing. Doors open. Almost like this was a functioning school that had wrapped up a day of learning. Also, the setting is somewhat ironic – holding a potential school closure meeting inside a “closed” school.

Since the GV closure, the General Vanier site has been re-purposed as a home for TR Leger alternative school, the international student program and Contact North. The board’s facilities department has space there too. It seems to be a waste of money to keep such a large facility with these departments that the board clearly has space for elsewhere in Cornwall.

According to the board’s own School Information Profiles, the CCVS school is only at 62 per cent capacity or 789 students. CCVS was projected to decline to 55 per cent in five years before this plan to shutter other schools. St. Lawrence is in better shape with 66 per cent capacity but a five year projected capacity remaining at 66 per cent. With enrollment at CCVS down, why does the board continue to operate the General Vanier site?

TR Leger could be moved to CCVS, increasing the usage of that space. With classrooms turned into administration offices, it reduces the number of On The Ground (OTG) units the board uses to calculate capacity. The international program and Contact North could both be housed at St. Lawrence reducing their capacity usage also.

Glengarry District High School has as a high amount of vacant space. Could the board not use some of that space for the facilities department or some of the administrative functions of TR Leger? In the time of integrated networks, telephones and emails, there are plenty of chances for connection within a department that physically resides in different sites.

General Vanier was built in 1962. According to reports at the time it was closed, the school cost $28.71 per square meter to operate. That was in 2008-09. It was considerably higher to operate than St. Lawrence or CCVS and led to the school closing. For the record, the board average for 2014-15 for operational costs was $21 per square meter. Why is the General Vanier site immune to closure?

Other schools in the UCDSB have administration offices located in it. Other boards do this as well. Why has the General Vanier site not been shuttered once and for all and disposed of by the board?

Something does not seem right with this plan – and it starts in Cornwall.


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