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Group opposes Optimist Park location for a new Saskatoon school

Karen Farmer is opposed to turning Optimist Park into the location for a new school in Saskatoon. Brady Ratzlaff / Global News

One of two proposed locations for a new elementary school in Saskatoon is being met by opposition.

Trustees with the Saskatoon Board of Education passed a motion on Tuesday to continue exploring the possibility of locating its City Centre Project at Optimist Park.

It would replace three core schools — King George, Pleasant Hill, and Princess Alexandra.

Read more: Saskatoon city council approves looking at Optimist Park for school amalgamation

“Our board is determined to find the best location for serving the students and families of these three schools,” board chair Colleen MacPherson said in a statement.

“We want to give appropriate consideration to Optimist Park, which could provide a central location for this new school community.”

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The second location being considered by the school division is the Princess Alexandra School site.

The Optimist Park users and neighbours committee is opposed to the move.

It says the park is one of the oldest and most established parks in the city and is located in a part of the city where few parks exist.

Optimist Park borders on the West Industrial neighbourhood and Murray Gross, who lives in the neighbourhood, considers Optimist Park to be that community’s park.

“The West Industrial neighbourhood is without a park, period,” Gross said in a press release.

“I would hate to see it eliminated as a community resource and destroyed by the public school division. I urge Saskatoon city council to reject the (Saskatoon Public School Division’s) proposal to eliminate Optimist Park.”

Read more: Community consultation needed for amalgamation of 3 Saskatoon schools: residents

The park is owned by the city, which would have to approve the construction of a new school at that location.

In February, city council voted to look at Optimist Park, and several other locations, as a site for the new school.

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Council also voted to expand the search to underused lots in the West Industrial neighbourhood.

Karen Farmer was at the park on May 8 when the committee held a tour to promote the history and value of the park to the community.

Farmer said while she understands the need for a new school, she feels the community is being left out of the conversation.

“We understand the school divisions had a challenging year, but we feel like we haven’t really been listened to as a community,” Farmer told Global News.

She would rather see vacant lots used for the new school instead of Optimist Park.

“We have a lot of vacant, empty spots in these neighbourhoods and it seems like a strange solution to consider taking away a park,” she said.

“It’s got a long history and there’s a great diversity of people that enjoy it today and that would significantly alter if it became a school ground.”

Read more: Parents raise concerns about planned amalgamation of 3 Saskatoon schools

The school division released site evaluation studies to school division trustees on Tuesday for the Optimist Park and Princess Alexandra School locations.

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It said the site studies provide an idea of the space a school building will occupy.

Feedback was provided through one-on-one meetings with school families, virtual public engagement sessions, submissions and online.

“The City Centre Project will provide innovative learning spaces designed to support students academically, socially, physically and emotionally. It will be culturally representative of the community it serves and welcoming for families,” MacPherson said.

“We look forward to continuing conversations with students, families, elders and the community as we move forward, and will continue to pursue partnerships with local agencies and organizations to provide wrap-around services for students and families.”

The school division is in discussions with the City of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Tribal Council on partnering for the project.

The new school is expected to cost $29 million with funding provided by the provincial government.

It has a targeted opening date of September 2024.

Click to play video: 'Parents raise concerns about planned amalgamation of 3 Saskatoon schools' Parents raise concerns about planned amalgamation of 3 Saskatoon schools
Parents raise concerns about planned amalgamation of 3 Saskatoon schools – Jan 8, 2021

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