New high school for Amherstburg, new elementary school for LaSalle

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Windsor Star/Dave Battagello


After 102 years of students strolling the cramped hallways of General Amherst high school, the town of Amherstburg will be getting a new $23.8-million public high school.

“We have two great high schools in town for as long as I can remember,” said Amherstburg Mayor Aldo Di Carlo. “Keeping them in town is essential if you want to attract young families to live here. So, this announcement is absolutely priceless.”

Ontario’s education ministry made the announcement Monday — part of a sweeping investment of new schools across the province — that also included good news for LaSalle, which will see $9 million spent to build and relocate Prince Andrew elementary school.

That aging elementary schoolhouse just off Malden Road will be shifted from its current isolated rural location closer to new residential developments on the southern edge of town.

Both new schools won’t be ready for at least three years, officials from the Greater Essex County District School Board said.

Western Secondary School on County Road 8 — which specializes in vocational training — and its 300 students will also be moved into the new public high school in Amherstburg that will accommodate 820 students.

The next step is to select sites for each school.

The two frontrunners for location of the new public high school in Amherstburg appear to be Centennial Park, which is close to downtown, or the Libro Centre, in a rural area on the town’s eastern edge along Meloche Road.

Municipal administrators in both towns are being consulted regarding location. Final decisions should be made fairly quickly, said board Supt. Todd Awender.

“We are hoping it’s real soon,” he said. “We have already been meeting and have a few sites in mind. We are much further ahead than just starting on this.”

Under the announcement, the provincial government will also cover land purchase costs on top of construction costs.

Awender indicated after the sites are selected for both the high school and elementary school, final designs will be drawn up, construction tenders issued and program planning for each school put in place.

It will be “three years minimum” before the doors will open for each school, he said.

Awender said there was no chance 102-year-old General Amherst — which sits in a central location in downtown Amherstburg — will be demolished.

The board will offer it for sale and expects the property will be scooped up for another purpose.

The town’s CAO John Miceli said the town “would be excited” to participate in the process to reuse the current high school site.

One suggestion already put on the table is to use the building for a larger municipal town hall.

“We also know the town needs a new hotel,” Miceli said. “Would this be a good site? Perhaps.”

The new Prince Andrew School in LaSalle will house 423 students.

“We already have some terrific new school facilities in LaSalle that include Holy Cross and LaSalle Public,” said LaSalle Mayor Ken Antaya. “This just adds to that stable and contributes to further development of the municipality. It’s a great day.”

He said moving Prince Andrew closer to town also creates a possibility of sharing the building for municipal services.

Christine Inverarity, the elementary school’s principal, said the news was such a surprise that parents and students were not even aware a new school was on its way.

“I’m sure everyone will be thrilled,” she said.

Roughly 95 per cent of the school’s 316 students are already bused each day, so changing locations shouldn’t upset anyone, Inverarity said.

She added the small school’s tight-knit character also shouldn’t change.

“It’s not about the building, but the people,” she said. “We will have the same people in the new building. It’s just the windows will actually open, water fountains will work and we won’t need a boat in our schoolyard when it rains.”