Province finally greenlights new elementary school in Oro-Medonte

It’s been a long time coming and the final price tag is almost double the original estimate, but the tender to build a new elementary school and community centre in Oro-Medonte has finally been approved.

The province says it will provide up $23.8 million, which includes $6.8 million in funding from Oro-Medonte Township for the community hub, to build the new facility at 739 Horseshoe Valley Rd. W., near Line 5 North.

The township's portion of the project funding was approved in February 2021.

The original cost of the school, which was approved by the Ministry of Education in 2018, was $9 million.

“This is absolutely fantastic news, a great way to start the weekend,” said Orillia/Ramara/Severn trustee Jodi Lloyd, who's also chair of the Simcoe County District School Board, said of the approval when contacted by BarrieToday. “It’s what we’ve been hoping for.”

Lloyd said she wasn’t too surprised to hear the new cost of the project. She'd known the cost was going to be “significantly higher” for a while, based on the rising costs of similar projects around the province.

“The cost of materials and labour for construction projects has risen dramatically over the past couple of years,” she said. “We knew it would impact this project, but we’re still very grateful to have it approved.”

Now that the project has been approved, Lloyd said there shouldn’t be too much of a lag between the time when the tender process is initiated and the first shovel goes into the ground.

“I can’t say exactly how long that process takes, but it’s not usually significant,” she said.

Well before the school opens, the public school board will perform “an attendance area review,” which will determine what areas will be served by the new school.

“People in the area will be notified of the review and will be invited to participate,” Lloyd said. “It’s a public process.”

The township originally bought the land on Horseshoe Valley Road West in 2013 with the hope of building a community centre on the site. In the years following the purchase, the township made it known to the school board that it was interested in forming a partnership if the opportunity presented itself.

In 2017, they formalized an agreement, and in 2018 the Ministry of Education approved the original $9 million in funding.

The school will accommodate at least 357 pupils and is expected to have three kindergarten classrooms, 11 regular classrooms, two resource rooms, a learning centre, a library, and a full-size gymnasium, which is to be shared with the community centre.

The community centre portion of the facility will be approximately 14,500 square feet and include administrative space with self-service kiosks in the lobby area, a multi-purpose/program room, custodial areas and washrooms, and change rooms.

The design, including site and servicing plans, also includes provisions for a 11,150-sq.-ft. addition to potentially accommodate a multi-purpose area and fitness centre or space for other future township needs.

“The funding for a new Oro-Medonte elementary school ... is great news for our community,” Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey said in a news release announcing the funding on Friday. “This investment will ensure families and students have access to a quality learning environment in the years ahead.”

“We are looking forward to seeing this project proceed and working with our partners at the Township of Oro-Medonte on the development of this joint-use facility,” Simcoe County District School Board director of education John Dance also said in the release.

Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,