New chapter begins for former Victoria Street School
By Angelica Ingram
Published May 3, 2016
“Welcome to our wonderful school of dreams.”
This was the sentiment expressed by Community Living executive director Teresa Jordan but felt by many at an open house on April 29, held at the former Victoria Street School in Haliburton Village.
The event was a celebration of a partnership between Community Living Haliburton County and the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, which recently moved into the historic building.
The building, which once belonged to the Trillium Lakelands District School Board, is now a community hub and home to various organizations, including Community Living, Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society and Haliburton Dance Academy.
The open house offered members of the public opportunity to tour the building, which includes administration offices, kitchen facilities, classrooms, lounge space, dance studios and a community garden.
The building has undergone extensive renovations, including accessibility upgrades, and is in the process of having an elevator installed.
“We’re so proud that we’ve been able to repurpose this space so that it remains a community hub,” said Jordan. “That was certainly the vision of the board.”
Director of education for TLDSB Larry Hope said he was happy to see the building was revitalized and remained.
“One of the interesting things that happens to a school board when we declare a piece of property surplus is everybody starts to say are you just going to let it fall apart?” said Hope. “Sadly in some instances there isn’t somebody out there who wants to take over the building as it exists. I would say to you for Haliburton’s sake, for all of our sake, this is a wonderful, wonderful success story.”
Hope said it’s not just schools that fit the criteria for community hubs, but many facilities and organizations can fill the need.
“Thank you for stepping up and taking this responsibility seriously and doing something really meaningful,” he said. “When we did declare this piece of property was no longer going to be needed, the community was very, very concerned. I think you’ve done a wonderful job of putting those concerns to bed.”
In 1935 the Haliburton County and Victoria County Children Aid’s Societies amalgamated and served the area until 1966, when the organization amalgamated with Peterborough region, making this year the 50th anniversary of the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, said executive director Jennifer Wilson.
“What a great testament to the roots in this community,” she said. “We are becoming more creative as a social service sector because there is always going to be financial restraint. And the needs of our communities is really staying local in a hub model such as this.”
Jordan said it took years to get to this day, with Community Living moving into the former school at the end of 2013.
“One of my first trips up, this building was completely vacant and I just came over on my own and walked around and instantly I could see the vision the board was understanding,” she said.
Wilson echoed that vision and the willingness Community Living had to enter into brave partnerships.
“I think the theme today is brave partnerships, that’s how we landed where we are today,” said Wilson.