Toronto Catholic school board trustees Frank D'Amico, Sal Piccininni, Ann Andrachuk, then education director Bruce Rodrigues and area trustee Maria Rizzo pose with the plans for the proposed joint Dante Alighieri school and community centre in this 2012 photo. Photo courtesy of the Toronto Catholic District School Board

School, community centre to consolidate under one roof

  • June 21, 2015

TORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board and Villa Charities are entering a unique partnership to build a new state-of-the-art shared facility that will house Dante Alighieri Academy and the Columbus Centre.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Angelo Sangiorgio, the board’s director of planning and facilities. “We’ve had this longstanding relationship with Villa Charities and they had a need to address facility issues and we had a similar need.”

For more than a decade Dante Alighieri Academy, located in the Dufferin Street-Lawrence Avenue area, has been bursting at the seams with students.

In 2011, the board sought funding from the province to rebuild the school which has been renting space at Bathurst Heights Secondary School, Sir Sanford Fleming Academy and the Columbus Centre, a community centre for the Italian-Canadian community.

Earlier this month the board reached a land purchase and use agreement with Villa Charities from which Toronto Catholic acquired 3.47 acres of Villa’s neighbouring property. Along with the transfer of land, the agreement also solidified the two organizations’ intention to build one shared facility.

“It is going to be all consolidated within the one building,” Sangiorgio said. “The building is going to be more integrated than a semi-detached building. There is going to be a degree of integration where you just can’t draw a line down the middle of the hallway.”

It is expected to open in 2018.

In addition to modernized classrooms outfitted for 21st-century learning, Dante Alighieri students will receive access to a full-sized theatre able to hold between 500 and 600 people.

“Villa is constructing the theatre at no cost to the school board,” said Sangiorgio. “It is not every day that a theatre gets constructed in a community.”

As they have in the past, students will continue to use the Columbus Centre’s dance, music and fitness facilities in the new building. Sangiorgio hinted at the possibility of Villa Charities building its pool facility on the property which the school would have access to.

“They have made the decision on the theatre but they haven’t made the decision on the pool,” he said.

When the design has been completed and construction begins in about 15 months, discussions will follow about potential program sharing, such as cafeteria services, arts programs and maintenance.

“Our goal is eliminate duplications,” Sangiorgio said.

Paul Di Iulio, chief executive officer of Villa Charities, said the new facility will help sustain the culture of the changing community.

“The neighbourhood has changed and this will help maintain its vibrancy by upgrading and renovating our own facilities,” he said. “It will be a new facility with new facilities in it. That will help upgrade our cultural level and our cultural value.”  

“It will rejuvenate the entire community in a lot of ways,” agreed local trustee Maria Rizzo.

Sangiorgio said to expect more schools to be built as shared-use facilities in the years to come.

“We have others planned across the city,” he said. “Here in the city we have limited space so this is the way of the future.”

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