Nursery school drops Walker plan

The Fort Frances Nursery School board has decided not to explore building an addition for a permanent site on to the J.W. Walker School expansion despite being given the green light—at least, in principle—by the Rainy River District School Board.
Trustees had agreed at their Nov. 5 meeting to allow the nursery school board to build an addition on to the J.W. Walker project on condition that the addition—and all the expenses incurred by its building and upkeep—not cost the public school board anything.
“We’ve looked into another partnership with the Fort Frances Public Library,” said Sandra Weir, representing the Fort Frances Nursery School board.
“They plan to expand in the near future and are willing to take us on as a partner in a rental arrangement,” Weir noted.
The nursery school’s main sticking point with the school board was taking on the responsibility of the addition’s maintenance and operational costs.
The nursery school prefers to stay in a rental situation.
“We’re a parent-run program so there’s not a lot of room for added financial costs,” Weir said. “What happens in 10 years when the roof needs to get replaced?”
Weir admitted they have a very committed core of volunteers for fundraising initiatives, but the nursery school board didn’t feel it should have to lean on its volunteers for everything.
And raising fees wasn’t an option because the board wants the nursery school to be affordable, she added.
“I think the nursery school will do well there [library],” noted Weir. “Financially, it’s probably the better way to go, but it’s a really good concept.
“They focus on the early years [of child development] and want to make it a real community centre.”
“It’s in such a preliminary stage right now,” said head librarian Margaret Sedgwick. “It’s just an option right now, but there is an opportunity there.
“We want to make the library a hub in the community.”
Sedgwick said they only have met with their consultant once to discuss the long-term needs and functions of the library—and that the nursery school could be part of the plan.
The nursery school board plans to meet with the library early in the New Year to discuss the needs of the proposed space, Weir said, especially since there are certain things a nursery school needs to be functional, including enough space.
She is optimistic, but knows much needs to be done before there is an agreement with the library.
In the meantime, the planned library expansion is still four years away so the nursery school, currently housed at Alexander MacKenzie School, which is slated for closure, still will need someplace to call home until then—providing a deal with the library can be reached.
Weir said the nursery school board has submitted a letter to the public school board requesting space to help house the nursery in the interim.
“Our hope is that we can stay with the schools,” said Weir. “[But] they couldn’t guarantee anything. We are just waiting for their response.”
The nursery school board also fears the planned closure of the Alexander MacKenzie will come sooner than the proposed 2004 date. Right now, the nursery school’s plan was to be there until that school year, but nothing is guaranteed, said Weir.
“Should they decide to close the Alexander MacKenzie School, we’ll have to find something . . . maybe a church basement—that’s where we started.”
She added the nursery school board will begin to consider other possible locations in the New Year, as their lease is up in June at Alexander MacKenzie.
The nursery school situation, as well as the J.W. Walker expansion, will be on the agenda when the public school board meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the boardroom at Robert Moore School.
Other items on the agenda include the election of a chair and vice-chair, review of a policy on teacher performance appraisals, and criminal background checks.