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Feb. 18, 2019 | Monday
Local News
Additional funding for Royal Oak denied
Students at Royal Oaks Community School participate in their walking club - photo submitted by Christine McIsaac

Royal Oak Community School will not be receiving additional funding from the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake — at least not while the money is proposed to come from the annual allowance for the Shaw Festival.

On Monday, town council rejected a motion which would have seen $5,000 taken from the Shaw’s annual allocation and put towards the not-for-profit school, which operates out of the old hospital building on Wellington Street.

Robin Ridesic of Royal Oak spoke in support of additional funding for the school.

Despite the common perception of NOTL, Ridesic said there is an abundance of local youth in town, and not enough seats in local schools. She said there are 1,500 elementary-age children living locally, with only 1,200 seats available. 

With support from the community, Royal Oak is looking for help to develop, grow and expand its programs, to help accomodate the need for seats, Ridesic said.

The school currently has 35 students ranging through Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8.

A lot of people seem to think Royal Oak is a private school, she said, but it’s actually a charitable organization, opened because there was a need for public education in Old Town. 

“It's a placeholder school until we get public-funded education back into our community,” Ridesic said.

While Royal Oak is meant to be easily accessed, there is currently a tuition fee of around $9,000. However Ridesic says 46 per cent of families receive bursaries to cover the cost.

Ridesic said students have previously transferred to Royal Oak from both St. Michaels and Crossroads schools in Virgil, and suspects it’s due to the smaller class sizes and the ability for teachers to have more individual time with their students.

“Kids need 1-on-1 time with their teachers,” she said.

The plan, according to Ridesic, is to have a self-sustained running school — but they still need help. “It’s critical and they’re working hard to work to scale and be sustainable and funded but they aren’t there yet.”

The school would have used the money to expand and add new programs for their students and the community, Ridesic said, not just kids who attend the school.

According to Ridesic, the school ran a PD Day camp on Easter Monday last year, which was open to all children in the community. Some Royal Oak students weren’t able to attend because the spaces were filled with students from other schools.

Money from the town would help to fund those types of programs, Ridesic said.

“It’s a real need in the community. We felt like it was a great opportunity to expand this program and advertise it and resource it with the teachers we need.”

In 2018, the school received a grant of $9,500 from the Town, which was able to offset the rent of $15,000. 

In 2019, the grant amount was lowered to $5,000, while Ridesic said the rent increased almost $2,000.

The motion was brought forward by Coun. Clare Cameron, to take the $5,000 out of Shaw's $30,000 allocation for 2019.

"I use this opportunity to implore the rest of council to do something for a young fledgling organization in our community," she said.

Coun. Wendy Cherpopita backed her up.

"They believe they will be self-funded within a couple of years … The two prgrams they talked about are open to the community. I think this is really important we provide relevant funding or they wont be able to do that," said Cheropita.

But Coun. Gary Burroughs, along with the majority of council, didn't think it was fair to take funding from one organization and give it to another.

"I am very supportive of the school... I'm not supportive of taking money away from probably the biggest employer and certainly the biggest attraction that Niagara-on-the-Lake has. They are always scrambling for money," said Burroughs.

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