School boards exchanging General Vanier, Immaculate Conception

Members of the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) sign a memorandum of understanding on the sale of two school sites: the former General Vanier site on Cumberland Street and the Immaculate Conception site on McConnell Avenue. Signing the MOU are UCDSB Education Director Stephen Sliwa, UCDSB chairman Jeff McMillan, CDSBEO chairman Todd Lalonde and Education Director John Cameron. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The region’s English Public and Catholic boards have signed a deal which will allow the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario to step up its plans to consolidate schools in Cornwall.

The directors of education and board chairmen from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario and the Upper Canada District School Board signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday afternoon at the old General Vanier site at 1500 Cumberland Street, now home to TR Leger school.

The UCDSB wing, connected to St. Joseph’s Secondary School, is being sold to the Catholic board for an undisclosed sum, though officials said the sale price will be “fair market value.”

At the same time, the UCDSB says it will buy the surplus Immaculate Conception school site on McConnell Avenue from the Catholic board, in order to have a future home for TR Leger.

Both are being treated as separate real estate transactions and is being characterized as an “exchange” of properties.

The purchase of the Cumberland Street site will accelerate consolidation of schools for the Catholic board. Students from St. Columban’s and Sacred Heart will be going there this fall.

“As of September, we are planning on moving both St. Columban’s and Sacred Heart into the facility here. Initially, as per the ARC, it was that Immaculate (Conception) would close but then St. Columban’s would close the following year and then move in. But now, with the acquisition of General Vanier, we’ll be moving a year ahead of time,” CDSBEO Education Director John Cameron told Cornwall Newswatch.

The former GV site will also be home to grade 7 and 8 students from Bishop Macdonell and St. Anne, starting this fall.

When it’s all said and done, the entire student body in the former GV site is expected to be around 500 students.

“This is a start of great things to come and a great partnership that Eastern Ontario has between two solid boards,” CDSBEO chairman Todd Lalonde said.

Lalonde also acknowledged the work of UCDSB trustee David McDonald on this file.

Renovations this summer

TR Leger will wrap up its classes in June with its traditional wrap up. Most of the summer courses are done through correspondence so minimal disruption to programming is expected, staff said.

The General Vanier site will go through $2.2 million in renovations this summer – money already approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Renovations should start May 1.

“The site will be receiving various renovations to accommodate new four kindergarten classrooms with washrooms, fenced kindergarten play area and a new elementary bus loop. Large spacious green space for the grade 1-6 students as well as many additional classroom and washroom upgrades,” said Todd Lalonde, CDSBEO chairman and local trustee.

Over at the McConnell Avenue building, superintendent Tim Mills says some minor renovations may be needed to house TR Leger.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic School site on McConnell Avenue on Thursday, March 29, 2018. The school will be the future home of TR Leger School under a deal between the public and Catholic school boards. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Fate of other groups at General Vanier location

The move leaves three organizations at the Cumberland Street site in question – the Boys and Girls Club afternoon program, the Encore Education for seniors and Beyond 21.

TR Leger Cornwall Vice Principal Josh Harrison, who is a former Beyond 21 board member, says the group is searching for a new home.

UCDSB Superintendent Tim Mills, who has also been part of the BGC, says they are working closely with them to find new accommodations.

The former General Vanier Intermediate School site, currently home to TR Leger School, on Cumberland Street in Cornwall, Ont. on Thursday, March 29, 2018. The site is being sold to the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario to be the future home of St. Columban’s and Sacred Heart. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)