Four GECDSB secondary school tracks to be replaced with grass


A report about the conditions and future of certain secondary school track and fields has one school board trustee wishing more could be done to save them. 

During Tuesday's Greater Essex County District School Board, a report was brought forward regarding the track conditions at Belle River District High School, Massey Secondary School, Herman Academy Secondary School, and Windsor Stadium  for W.C. Kennedy Collegiate Institute.

Administration has determined that a renovation of Windsor Stadium, including the removal of the track and replacement with grass, together with the relocation of the lighting and restoration of the washrooms and grandstand seating at a cost of over $1.2-million and will be undertaken in 2024, using School Renewal Allocation funding.

The existing tracks at Massey, Herman and Belle River will be removed and replaced with grass at a total cost of just over $1-million, which will be done no later than 2024, also using School Renewal Allocation funding

Sarah Cipkar, trustee for wards 3, 4, and 10 with the Board put forward a notice of motion for more public consultation to take place on the facilities the four schools, particularly with Windsor Stadium, before the decision to replace it with grass was finalized. 

The motion was defeated. 

Cipkar says administration stated during the meeting that there wasn't additional funding from the Ministry of Education to repair the tracks. 

"It presents a problem within our budget because we don't know where to pull from. We don't really have the opportunity to pull funding from elsewhere, but, I would argue that removing track facilities without a plan to replace them, or to re-purpose them, or to re-imagine them, or even to seek external funding is damaging to our students."

She says it shouldn't fall on students to fundraise to save or add amenities. 

"A lot of our schools can be put in inequitable positions where their students have backgrounds that their families can't fundraiser significant amounts that would amount to any sort of additions, or amenities to board facilities."

Cipkar says track facilities are important to the community because they represent trajectories that students can take. 

"If certain students, say on the west end, don't have the ability to get to a track facilities, whether it's via transit, or they just don't live in close proximity, that kind of limits their longer term prospects for maybe that being something for them to receive a scholarship, or even just have a better sense of well-being and enjoyment. And I think it's just an issue of equity within our system."

Until each school can be replaced with grass, the track facilities will remain closed for use due to health and safety reasons. 

Cipkar adds that now is the opportunity for community partners or private sponsors to come forward if they see value in Windsor Stadium, or the other schools. 

She says Windsor Stadium has been sitting without improvements or developments for over a decade, and it would be wonderful for funding to be provided to clean up the area.