A plan to convert John Tod elementary school into a new community centre on the North Shore promises a happy ending to what was a sad tale of the school’s closure two years ago.
The City of Kamloops and School District 73 have signed a lease agreement with the proviso that the City will sub-lease space to community partners. Kamloops YMCA/YWCA and the Boys and Girls Club of Kamloops are the lead partners in the project, which could have the centre up and running by later this year.
Officials seemed to be getting ahead of themselves last week when the City and school district jointly announced the new partnership, surrounded by a phalanx of other officials and a few neighbourhood residents.
The surprise announcement had the sunny optics of a ribbon-cutting without the advance publicity or substance to back it up. There are no funds budgeted to convert the school and details must be worked out with potential leaseholders.
That a North Shore Community Centre already exists did not seem to be considered. Cottonwood Manor has been using that name for the past 15 years for the cultural/recreational component of Cottonwood Manor. Though geared primarily to seniors who are residents of the complex, the North Shore Community Centre Society has reached out to the community at large with a variety of public activities and events. Apparently, there has been some discussion about the co-opted name, so the City may go with John Tod Community Centre instead.
All that aside, some feel the school should not have been closed in the first place. While they make valid points, the implication that the school closure issue should be revisited can only be a non-starter at this late date. Exhaustive public consultation and discussion preceded district closures two years ago. A show of hands, please, from all those who care to go down that bitter, painful road again?
As MLA Terry Lake noted, the old neighbourhood has been enhanced in recent years. Developments such as Spirit Square, the North Shore neighbourhood plan, Library Square have helped to invest confidence in an area endowed with natural attractions such as waterfront, sandy beaches and treed avenues. Apartments are going up around John Tod school as well, with densification likely to increase in the near future.
Aside from McDonald Park, though, public amenities have been lacking in the neighbourhood. The new centre could become a vital addition, a catalyst in urban renewal.
Closing schools can be heartbreaking, not only due to the impact on children, families and staff. Schools are far more than halls of learning; they are often the heart and soul of neighbourhoods. Recycled as a community centre, John Tod can play that role again.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.