The areas in light blue (attached) involved a partnership between the township and the school board. Courtesy Photo

WINCHESER – The end of the saga about adding a much-needed day care facility to the Winchester Public School is in sight.

The Upper Canada District School Board, (UCDSB) has received Ministry of Education approval to go ahead with the $5.4-million project.

When completed, the new facility will be home to the Happy Face Nursery School and Day care. The child care company already has locations in Morrisburg, Chesterville, Nationview Public School, North Stormont Public School, Roxmore Public School and will now be joining the Winchester Public School.

Years after the proposal was first announced, and years after negotiations between the North Dundas municipality and the UCDSB had first taken place, a site plan agreement was accepted by the township in January.

The original plan was first announced in 2015.

North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser had this to say about the news:

“It has been [voiced] at different times over the years, expressions of hope that we would come to a conclusion that would serve the ministry, the school board and the municipality; it is a well-rounded improvement and expansion.”

There have been many back and forth discussions between the school board and the municipality over the years, and each meeting resulted in a small movement on both sides for an agreement.

“It has taken a lot of effort to get to this point,” said Fraser.

“Always pleasant discussions and different points of view and we were able to come to a good agreement that served everyone,” he said.

“More than that, the families in North Dundas will be well served by this in the future.”

The mayor explained there has always been a great need for a day care centre in Winchester.

“This is a huge investment in an older school in rural Ontario.

Calvin Pol the director of planning, building and development for North Dundas did much of the negotiating with UCDSB.

He said, “The site plan process was lengthy, as it involved the utilization of parts of York Street, Clarence Street and Louise Street. Site works will extend into the township road allowances (sidewalks, drop off lanes, parking, etc.). The plans also change York Street and part of Louise Street into one-way roads. Developing the site plans and site plan agreement, and lease agreement was a momentous task. In the end, we reached mutually agreeable solutions.”

Deputy Mayor Al Armstrong said, he was pleased about the day care and it spoke to the good relationship the municipality has with the school board and the Ministry of Education.

In a press release the chair of the UCDSB John McAllister said, “We’re thrilled to move forward with this project as it will help address an ongoing community need for child care services.”

He mentioned the success of the project was due to the support from the Ministry of Education and the, “collaborative partnership we have with the township of North Dundas.”

The school board has agreed on a lease agreement with the township of North Dundas to lease portions of Louise Street, Clarence Street and York Street. The plan is for the board to work with North Dundas to convert York Street and a section of Louise Street into a one-way street, while a bus loading and unloading zone will be added to Clarence Street for improved safety.

A sign of the project getting underway was a decision by the North Dundas council at its Feb. 9 meeting to allocate five water and sewer units to the school in anticipation of the project getting underway.

In addition to the child care project, Winchester Public School’s existing infrastructure will also undergo capital improvements including a gym floor replacement, updated roofing, video security installation as well as new doors, new boilers and new rooftop mechanical units, painting, exterior site signage and classroom sinks. Improved parking and landscaping are also part of the project scope.

“This project represents an investment in the school and is part of the province’s capital investment program to support students with better learning spaces,”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a press release.

“Progress towards the construction of the child care addition to Winchester Public School further demonstrates our government’s commitment to making child care accessible and affordable for working families.”

MPP Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry said that news about the funding was good news for the Winchester community.

“This investment will provide choice and flexibility for families and new opportunities for the children of Winchester,” he said.

The school board expects to tender the project this spring.