Before Chris Hadfield Public School in Bradford West Gwillimbury opened its doors in 2015, the school already existed: its students were brought together at the old Bradford Public School, which was designated as a holding facility.
They had the opportunity to meet their teachers, attend classes, and work together as a school community – and when Chris Hadfield opened, transferred as a body to the new building on West Park Avenue.
That won’t be an option for students who will be attending the new Bradford North elementary school, planned for a three-hectare property north of Line 8, and now in the design stage.
Bradford Public School, still bearing a sign identifying it as “the temporary home of Chris Hadfield P.S.” is firmly shuttered.
Located at 177 Church St., the school was built in 1951. For years it was affiliated with Fred C. Cook Public School, housing students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 while the big school around the corner housed students in Grades 4 through 8.
When a replacement Fred C. Cook Public School was built, to open in 2014, the decommissioning and eventual sale of the Bradford Public School was always part of the plan.
Bradford Public School was formally closed in 2015 and declared surplus – although it has yet to be put on the market.
By 2015, the building had deteriorated, and the decision was made to close the small school for health and safety reasons – “and it hasn’t improved since then,” said Sarah Kekewich, communications manager for Simcoe County District School Board.
A quick look at the exterior of Bradford Public found gaps and cracks in the brick exterior, where the mortar needs to be repointed, there are ill-fitting window frames, and cracks in the foundation.
Kekewich was unable to provide details of the condition of the facility, or whether asbestos is present, but said firmly the board “would not consider using the school,” even in an emergency.
“The school is not one that we would consider using in any situation. It’s not a viable option,” said Kekewich. “It really amounts to the condition of the facility. The priority is to keep our children safe.”
That doesn't mean that some other use, that does not involve children, could not be found, she said. But as a school? The answer is no.
Bradford North isn’t slated to open until September 2022. Until then, existing local schools will continue to be at capacity – and, in fact, over capacity.
As the school board acknowledged in a February meeting with parents, Bradford West Gwillimbury schools are at 138 per cent capacity, and the town continues to grow.
The only solution in the foreseeable future, according to the board, is adding more portables, where possible, and designating Sir William Osler Public School in Bond Head as a "holding school" for a handful of potential students in one of the new subdivisions at the south end of town.