City of Barrie seeks deal with boards for use of school facilities off-hours

Initial focus of the programming would be geared to underserved areas of the city

Opening up schools during the evenings and on weekends in Barrie for recreational and cultural programs.

That’s what’s behind a motion approved by general committee on Monday giving city staff the green light to enter into talks with both the public and catholic school boards about the use of their facilities.

The goal is to begin programming on Sept. 1.

The proposal would see the initial focus on school locations in proximity to underserved areas including downtown, northwest and southeast – along with locations with vulnerable or at-risk youth.

“I hope there would be organizations that are not just into recreation but also into culture that would be able to come to the table and be part of this as well,” said Mayor Alex Nuttall.

As part of any agreement, staff has been asked to take into consideration that programming utilizes volunteers and organizations with the possible inclusion of community partners and that staff applies for any available provincial or federal funding.

Councillor Bryn Hamilton said she had received concerns from existing clubs and organizations that currently utilize gym space after school and on weekends that capacity is already constrained.

“I just want to make sure if we pursue this, there are no negative implications, and we’re not going to be negatively impacting those clubs and organizations that are currently accessing the school gymnasium.”

The mayor said when he met with the school boards they told him there is excess capacity.

“They also said they do have numerous user groups that use the facilities, and we would obviously have to respect and work around.”

Nuttall said there are some schools that are used every night and there are schools that aren’t, so he didn’t anticipate this being a massive issue.

The motion needs to be ratified by council on Mar. 8.