Catholic board axes school use fees

Community groups now will be able to use more school facilities in Northwestern Ontario at no charge, thanks to a special agreement signed by the Northwest Catholic District School Board and the Ontario government.
“Our schools should be community hubs where people can gather to learn, participate in community-based activities, and stay active,” Tourism and Recreation minister Jim Bradley said Monday.
“Today, the McGuinty government and the Northwest Catholic District School Board are making that happen.”
Bradley said education cutbacks by the previous government caused many school boards to price their grounds and facilities out of reach of community groups—but they’re changing that.
“This is great news for students, not-for-profit groups, and communities across the province which have already paid for these schools,” noted Bradley, whose ministry oversees the Community Use of Schools program.
Improvements effective immediately include:
•the $30 custodial fee that had been charged on weekends, and on weekdays at some schools, is eliminated for all community not-for-profit groups;
•gymnasium equipment fees, which were $25 per use, have been eliminated for all community not-for-profit groups;
•classroom and library equipment fees, which were $10 per use, have been waived for all community not-for-profit groups;
•facilities will be made available to community not-for-profit groups for an additional 373 hours a year; and
•the board will continue its admirable policy of not charging community groups rental fees for using school gyms, playing fields, classrooms, and libraries.
In July, the Ontario government announced $20 million to help boards open their schools to their communities.
As part of that initiative, the Northwest Catholic District School Board, representing five schools in Fort Frances, Stratton, Dryden, and Sioux Lookout, has signed a Community Recreation and Use Agreement.
It will receive $11,187 to help make school facilities more accessible to not-for-profit groups at reduced rates.
The Rainy River District School Board announced a similar agreement with the ministry earlier this month.
“Opening the doors to our schools is making our communities better places to live, where people are able to be active, healthy, and more connected regardless of their financial circumstances,” said Bradley.
“We are pleased to be working in partnership with the provincial government to make our schools more accessible to the broader community,” said Chris Howarth, superintendent of business for the Northwest Catholic District School Board.

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