SOUTH STORMONT – Restrictions put in place by the Upper Canada District School Board due to the COVID-19 pandemic have locked out Ingleside residents from using the only recreation space in the village, the Lancer Centre. South Stormont Township council learned of the issue at its November 10th regular meeting.
“There is definitely a void in service level without the use of this facility,” said Kevin Amelotte, director of Parks and Recreation for the township.
The Lancer Centre, which was built in the early 1990s by the SD&G County Board of Education and Osnabruck Township, was shuttered due to restrictions on community use of school facilities.
The UCDSB has blocked outside use of all school buildings until early 2021 citing the cleaning and sanitization requirements of spaces due to the pandemic.
Amelotte told council that because the building is unavailable, many of its Ingleside-based recreation programs including pickleball and basketball cannot take place. Even after offering to use township staff to clean the centre, the answer was no.
“The UCDSB needs to be reminded that the Lancer Centre is not a school gym like at other schools,” said councillor Jennifer MacIsaac. “The Lancer Centre was built in partnership with the community to be utilized as a school gym by day, and a community centre on evenings and weekends.”
Construction of the facility was partly funded by Osnabruck Township when the school board of the day closed the gap between Rothwell Public School and Osnabruck High School to create Rothwell-Osnabruck School. The UCDSB closed the secondary school portion of the building in June 2017 but use of the Lancer Centre continued after the closure.
“It has a separate entrance, a separate hallway, it’s completely blocked off from the other part of the building that is still being used as an elementary school,” MacIsaac said. “The comment from the school board that if they do it for one it would not be fair for others should not apply here as this facility is quite unique.”
She said she wanted to see council press the issue with the school board and was sure that the two entities could collaborate that proper COVID-19 protocols be followed to keep everyone safe.
Mayor Bryan McGillis agreed saying, “It doesn’t sit well with me what their excuses are.”
Deputy-Mayor David Smith agreed that Ingleside shouldn’t be compared to other schools. “They took our schools, they didn’t take everyone elses. Give us a little bit of something.”
Smith expanded on his point saying that the mental health implications of being locked out of the Lancer Centre for recreation programming was “huge.”
“With the warm weather ending, many in the community still need a place for recreation in the winter. Our school is our building. We paid for part of this years ago and I think we are deserving of using it.”
Councillor Cindy Woods said she does not know of any other municipality within the UCDSB that has paid toward a community centre or school building. “That may be a major difference and they may want to reconsider on those grounds.”
“This facility is a partnership between us and them,” McGillis concluded. “They can’t just close a partnership up just because they are saying they don’t want to set a precedent. I think it is ridiculous. It’s not enough of a reason.”
Council agreed that another letter would be sent to the UCDSB in the hope that it would reconsider.
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