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Essa Township finally relinquishing 'queen of the portables' crown

Two new elementary schools to be built and open by September 2026; 'this is the best news any township could ask for,' says mayor
Officials gathered in Essa Township Thursday to announce two new schools will be built in the township and will be open for September 2026. Joining the celebration are, from left, Essa Township Coun. Liana Maltby, Simcoe County District School Board director of education John Dance, Essa Township Coun. Pieter Kiezebrink, Simcoe-Grey MPP Brian Saunderson, Essa Township Mayor Sandie Macdonald, Simcoe County District School Board trustee Brandy Rafeek, Simcoe County District School Board superintendent of education Greg Jacobs, Essa Township Deputy Mayor Michael Smith, Essa Township, Coun. Henry Sander, Essa Township chief administrative officer Michael Mikael.

Essa Township Mayor Sandie Macdonald is happy to give up the municipality's unfortunate title as "queen of the portables.”

With the announcement Thursday that two new schools will be built in the township — the Angus Catholic Elementary School at a site to be acquired in Essa, and the new Angus Elementary School to be located at 152 Greenwood Dr. — Macdonald can pass the crown.

“This is the best news any township could ask for,” Macdonald said at a news conference at the site of the new Angus Elementary School on Thursday afternoon. “It’s such a relief for our youth and our parents. Children can actually walk across the street so they don’t have to be bused away.

“I’m so proud of the team that brought this together," she added. 

The new Catholic school will accommodate 516 pupils and 49 licensed child-care spaces and will cost $24.3 million.

Meanwhile, the new public elementary school in Angus will accommodate 593 pupils and will carry a $28.1-million price tag.

Both schools are expected to be open by September 2026, according to Simcoe-Grey MPP Brian Saunderson.

“I’m very excited to be here to announce that we’re going to expand the home team and build a school on this site,” Saunderson said as he introduced the funding announcement. “We need to equip our young students with the tools they need to advance into their future careers.

“Part of our government’s focus is on making sure our youth’s future depends on their education today," he added. 

According to Brandy Rafeek, who is the Simcoe County District School Board trustee for Adjala-Tosorontio/Clearview/CFB Borden/Essa and vice-chair of the board, the new schools will be more than education resources.

“Schools are more than bricks-and-mortar,” she said. “These are community hubs, another facility that can be used by community groups throughout the township.”

According to Macdonald, Essa Township has been advocating for new schools for quite a few years. 

She’s seen schools with up to a dozen portables.

“I think everyone will embrace this announcement,” the mayor said. “Schools bring our communities together and help provide an identity for the community and the people who live in it. 

“If you can give them a good place to give them an education, they will be successful leaders in the future," Macdonald added.

According to Saunderson, the new schools in Essa are part of the $1.3 billion earmarked to build new schools and expand existing ones as part of the province’s capital priorities program. 

The overall investment, which is said to be the highest ever made in a single year, supports the creations of more than 27,000 new students spaces and more than 1,700 licensed child-care spaces at schools across the province.

While no date was given for when construction will start, officials said it should be soon as they are committed to the September 2026 opening for both schools.

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Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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