Catholic Central High School Courtesty of Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board

Board helps revitalize Windsor’s core

By 
  • July 1, 2013

The City of Windsor has donated land to the Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board for the rebuild of Catholic Central High School in the heart of the border city’s downtown.

The idea, according to Windsor’s mayor, is to preserve the city’s history and maintain the Catholic presence in the downtown core.

“We felt that based on the purpose of the project, that the project will serve the needs of the community, that it was important to assist them by donating (the land),” said Mayor Eddie Francis. “With the rebuilding of Catholic Central at that particular location it basically allows the neighbourhood .... of Catholic Central to have a school in their backyard. We believe that anchors a community.”

According to Francis several downtown locations were offered for the board to consider during conversations that took place over the past several months. In the end the board selected about three hectares of downtown real estate to rebuild Catholic Central. This land includes the property currently housing the closed Windsor Arena, locally known as The Barn, which the city wants the school board to preserve.

“Given the historical nature of The Barn we asked them to preserve as much of the architectural features as possible given the historical significance,” said Francis. “It’s a building that has been the gathering spot of the city and for the community for decades and decades. It holds a lot of historical value. We felt that it could be showcased with the new development.”

The arena was once home to the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, and even to the Detroit Cougars (forerunner to the Detroit Red Wings) of the National Hockey League for a season while its arena was built across the river in Detroit.

“In addition to that they’ve given us a place called Windsor Water Work which has swimming pools and (more), which we will probably convert into a triple gym and then make that available for community use after school,” said Barbara Holland, chair of the Windsor-Essex Catholic board.

Across from the property housing The Barn is a large parking lot which was also donated for the rebuild where an athletic playing field, something Catholic Central has never had, will be built.

The current Catholic Central, built in the 1920s, is well over capacity despite the board facing declining enrolment overall. The school has about 750 students enrolled with about 120 of them attending class off site. And due to the building’s age the board has been unable to effectively retrofit it with modern computers and networks.

Principal Amy Lo Faso sees the building of a new school as a way to truly engage students in 21st-century learning.

“We are preparing students for 21st-century learning and we have to give them an environment that reflects that too.”

Not only will the new school rehabilitate the historical downtown property while solving the problems of Catholic Central, it will also provide students with greater opportunities as the University of Windsor and St. Clair College have moved some of their departments into downtown Windsor, said Holland.

“So there are some wonderful opportunities to do shared programs with them.”

While Holland and Lo Faso are full of ideas on how the new school will benefit students, what exactly it will look like is still up in the air.

“One of the ideas that might go out for community consultation is that we have a couple of elementary feeder schools that are also in the downtown area. So is this a time to look at a JK to 12 model?” said Holland.

Holland said several business proposals have been submitted to the Ministry of Education.

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