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Boards pushing capital plans

MIRANDA MINASSIAN, QMI AGENCY

With 2011 coming to a close, both the Simcoe County District School Board and Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board say they will continue to push their capital plans forward in the coming year.

"This year we've been blessed with a new school opening in Orillia, with another tender having gone out," said Catholic board chairman Clayton Ferguson.

"We've had a number of improvement projects board-wide, which is something that will continue in the new year."

The construction of the new Monsignor Lee Catholic School was tendered at the end of November, with the project anticipated to go forward over the next 12 months.

Expected to be a green school, similar to the new St. Bernards' Catholic School, Mosignor Lee will also incorporate new technology.

"We have a responsibility to our environment and to our students to invest," said Ferguson. "We're trying to integrate all of those systems in our new developments."

The past year had development all year round for the board, which saw two new superintendents, a number of new trustees and a new director added to its roster.

Student achievement, which has been increasing over the last couple of years, will continue to be one of the board's main areas of focus, said Ferguson.

"We've examined our results over the last few years and we are steadily improving, which is a good thing," he said.

"It is slow and steady, but we are getting there."

By the spring of 2012, the board is looking to have its longterm plan complete, a document outlining the future projects and direction of the school.

For the public board, the upcoming year will be one of negotiations with contract talks pending with all seven of the bargaining groups in 2012.

Unions representing high school and public school teach-e rs, as well as custodial and administration staff, are among those who will be seeking new contracts.

"This is the first time that has happened. It'll make for an interesting year," said board chairman Robert North.

"Our various bargaining groups are aware that it is an interesting time right now, and we are all prepared to sit at the table."

Looking back, North is celebrating the addition of four all-day kindergarten programs to the existing 16, with 24 classrooms slated to open in 2012.

In addition, 2011 saw all of the elementary schools outfitted with defibrillators.

The board is also celebrating the opening of its first joint partnership building with Angus' new Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School sharing accommodations with the Essa Township library.

"There is only one taxpayer and I think more and more the board is exploring every possibility to save money," said North, adding that other partnership possibilities, including one in Barrie, are being explored.



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