Saskatoon

Saskatoon Public Schools to assess Optimist Park for site of new City Centre School

Saskatoon city council has given the green light for the public school board to assess whether Optimist Park would be a suitable location for a massive new school to be built in the core neighbourhoods.

Council also asking school division to consider locating school on industrial park land

Saskatoon Public Schools is considering an alternative location at Optimist Park to build the new City Centre School. (Leisha Grebinski/CBC News)

Saskatoon city council has given the green light for the public school board to assess whether Optimist Park would be a suitable location for a massive new school to be built in the core neighbourhoods.

The City Centre School would amalgamate three schools (Pleasant Hill, King George and Princess Alexandra) into one site. While the initial location for the site was Princess Alexandra School, Saskatoon Public Schools approached council last month, asking that Optimist Park be considered as well.

At its general meeting on Monday, council voted in favour of allowing the school division to proceed with a study on both Optimist Park and the Princess Alexandra School site to determine pros and cons of each location.

However, council also made a motion asking the board to consider building the school on unused industrial park land in the area.

"The idea of taking one of the only green spaces in an area that has a lot of underutilized and unused brownfields, putting a school to take away green space and leaving this other space, from a planning standpoint, just doesn't make sense," said Mayor Charlie Clark.

Both locations have been criticized by different members of the public. The Princess Alexandra site is seen by some people as too far away for students attending King George and Pleasant Hill schools, both located more than a kilometre away.

However, other people believe placing the school at Optimist Park would rob the area of precious green space.

To further complicate matters, the Saskatoon Public School board is under a tight timeline for the project. The province's Ministry of Education would like the school to be completed by either 2024 or 2025, meaning that a location should be found relatively soon.

Despite the timelines, Coun. Hilary Gough, said the location of the school was an important opportunity to revitalize the area, and should not be wasted.

"I think what we've heard very clearly is that residents expect us to be very careful in making sure that we are a part of win-win solutions and thinking creatively about how all of these things fit together," said Gough.

"I think that we have the opportunity to make sure that we're taking the time to find the best outcome that achieves as many of those shared interests as possible." 

The school board's superintendant of facilities noted there was no money in the project's budget for purchase or remediation of land. If the Optimist Park site was selected, the school division said the city could consider a land swap agreement, where the park land would be exchanged with land currently owned by Saskatoon Public Schools.

The motion is further complicated by plans to rejuvenate the White Buffalo Youth Lodge and include the recreation centre in the new school project.

Saskatoon Public Schools expects the report will be finished by April. It will then be presented at a future school board meeting and will then be presented to city council.

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