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Chelsea united in push for new French school

March 26th,2024 | Valley Voices

By Kevin Orr

In your most recent issue, I was surprised to read that “Parents launch petition for new French school” (March 20 edition). In all I’ve read and heard, Chelsea is united regarding the necessity for a new French primary school. We all agree and look to the day when the school becomes operational. Since there is no controversy, and we all welcome a new school, a petition suggests some kind of fight here. There is not. Those who are upset have no problem with the school itself but its location. I wish these two issues were not being conflated, causing fictional divisions in our community. 

The issue seems to flow from the mayor’s office. I’ve heard that from the beginning the mayor was under the impression that the Chelsea Foundation lands were municipal property, and only once the process began did he realize they were not – mistake number one. Secondly, I suspect the mayor misread the rules that govern the land acquisition for a school. If he had read them correctly, he would stop saying that his “hands are completely tied” when the rules clearly give the municipality a whole lot of say in the matter – mistake number two. Now the mayor seems to be doubling down to cover his errors – mistake number three. 

The mayor’s assertion that his “hands are tied” reminds me of the famous debate between Prime Minister John Turner and Brian Mulroney. Mulroney asked Turner about some ill-advised patronage appointments. Turner replied, “I had no option.” At that point, Mulroney retorted, “You had an option, sir, to say no.” Well, Mr. Mayor of Chelsea, you have an option. 

Behind the curling rink is vacant land closer to the new Chelsea Creek and Hendrick Farm developments, which are still close to the Meredith development. The only limitation of this parcel of truly vacant, undeveloped land is that it is not serviced by municipal water and sewage systems, a provincial requirement. However, the rules around identifying an appropriate site for a new school allow for exemptions. All you have to do, Mr. Mayor, is make the case for it to go to the province. Surely the unreliability of our municipal water system; the fact that it is already oversubscribed; and the proven reliability of the much less expensive well and septic systems, which have been servicing our existing schools for decades, are enough to make the case.

With some modifications and at far less cost, this option is a win for everyone. You do not have to sacrifice lands that have already been developed for the health and well-being of the community.  

Those trying to preserve recreational, charitable Foundation land are not against a new school. Let’s build it in the best location for all students, parents and the whole community.

Kevin Orr is a resident of Chelsea. 

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