Running Out of Options for Old East School

The City of London’s plan to try and save Lorne Ave. Public School from closure has been rejected. The end of the offer also means the Old East London school may not be saved in time for an April 30 deadline.  The school’s fate has been in jeopardy because of dropping enrolment.

In 2013, the City offered to buy a portion of the school and spend $1-million on renovations to make a transition to a neighbourhood family centre focused on children’s programs. On Tuesday, the office of Mayor Joe Fontana confirmed the City’s offer was rejected by the Thames Valley District School Board. In November, the Board decided to put off a decision on whether to close the school in June to April 30th.

“We made a formal offer to buy the surplus portion of the building,” Mayor Joe Fontana said Tuesday. “We sought out community partners to assist us and locate there but, in the end, the ever increasing costs required by the Board made a deal untenable.” Fontana says he is not pleased with the outcome of negotiations with the Board, who he says demanded “astronomical” renovation costs.

The TVDSB released a statement Tuesday announcing that because it has not received an “acceptable and compliant” offer for the school –or a portion of it– Lorne Ave..’s closure is imminent. The Board says the school will be slated for closure June 30, 2015 unless a viable buyer is presented by Wednesday.

The Board says it rejected the City’s offer because it removed from its proposal “required conditions… that were necessary to reconfigure the building to allow the continuation of an elementary school and community use”.

“In the offer submitted to TVDSB on March 20, the City deleted key conditions that would guarantee suitable uses of surplus space,” said Board Chair Ruth Tisdale. “It is imperative the school board have final say in what type of business or organization is housed in the surplus space. If a school is to remain functioning in a portion of the building, the remainder must be used by a business or organization that is suitable for children.”

“The City came to the table in good faith and ready to find a mutually beneficial solution,” Fontana said.

A group of parents who have spent several months fighting a plan to close the school says for them the fight isn’t over. The Save Lorne Ave. group has been present at of the Board’s meetings about the school and actively helped the City prepare its plan and find partners to help save the school.

Spokesperson Scott MacLean says trustees can still have a say on the planned closure. He says he feels like the group was set up to fail from the beginning, but they are still devoted to keeping the school open.

MacLean says the Save Lorne Ave. collaborative is planning to meet an file appeals over the planned closure of the school.

The Board says closing Lorne Ave. Public School Closing the school will save and estimated $7-million over the next 10 years. Students will be moved to either St. George’s and Bishop Townshend Public Schools.