Nursery school presents expansion plans

The Fort Frances Nursery School presented plans for an addition to J.W. Walker School at a building committee meeting last night, but it will have to wait for approval at the Rainy River District School Board’s next meeting before moving ahead.
“We wish to secure a permanent location for the nursery school at the J.W. Walker facility,” Sandra Weir, vice-president of the nursery school, told the committee last night.
The nursery school currently operates out of Alexander MacKenzie School but when that school closes in 2004, it no longer will have a place to run the program.
A community group has been formed to help raise the estimated $150,000 necessary to build an additional room onto J.W. Walker, which is being expanded anyway to accommodate students from Alexander MacKenzie, Sixth Street, and Alberton Central once those schools all close.
Betty-Anne MacKintosh, a concerned parent, said the group is looking into grants, such as the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, to help pay for the project.
“We are undertaking a fundraising campaign and we don’t think that it will be a problem raising funds either way,” she said.
Currently, the nursery school rents a classroom for $250 a month and Superintendent of Education Terry Ellwood said the board would be happy to continue renting space if they had a free room.
But with the consolidation of three schools, he admitted finding an empty classroom might prove difficult.
And by building a room onto Walker, Ellwood noted the relationship between the nursery school and the local public school board would change.
“What you are requesting is discretionary and designated space so that even if the school population goes up, you would have that space,” he said.
“If we go with that, then you have to be responsible for all costs, including maintenance, utilities, etc.,” Ellwood added.
Trustee Dan Belluz said he liked the plan and wanted to see it move forward, but he was concerned at covering the costs, especially since the school board would be responsible for underwriting the project.
“I, myself as a trustee, don’t know if there is any room [in the budget] for any added expansion to run J.W. Walker,” he said.
Time also is a factor. If an addition is considered, architect Dudley Thompson suggested it be tacked on to the end of the existing building.
Designers would have to know by Christmas whether to include the addition into current plans, but the room could be built at any time.
“You would get a good price if you build the space as part of the whole package. If you come back and build the space, you can double [the price],” Thompson warned.
MacKintosh said they required more firm estimates of how much the expansion would cost, and whether the board is willing to consider the option, before moving forward with grant proposals.
Education Director Warren Hoshizaki said no decision could be made until the school board meets next month and trustees decided if they wished to go ahead with the plan.
“It is up to the trustees to decide at the board meeting and once they have done that, the details will all be worked out,” he said.
Still, nursery school reps seemed pleased with the committee’s response to their ideas.
“We’re still optimistic. It was a good discussion and we felt we had a good reception,” Weir said afterwards.
In the meantime, the nursery school is holding a public meeting at Alexander MacKenzie School next Tuesday (Oct. 29) at 7 p.m.