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Maryhill man seeks bid to save St. Boniface school

Just down from the main intersection in Maryhill, you’ll find Pat Weiler in his workshop repairing a lawnmower or may be working on an old tractor. Maybe he’ll be polishing up his new prized possession, a 1963 Plymouth Fury – white on robin’s egg blue. Then again, he might be fixing up a bicycle with the intent of passing it on to a local kid.

To the long list of activities, you can now add “trying to keep St. Boniface school going.”

Ideally, he says, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board would keep the school open. Failing that, the old building would be a great community resource, says Weiler, who was born, raised and remains in the village to this very day.

To that end, he’s hoping to spearhead a campaign to convince the board to reverse plans to build a new school in Breslau to replace the current St. Boniface. A corresponding fundraising effort would aim to keep the building in community hands should a move be inevitable.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and all of them want to keep the school,” said Weiler in the workshop of his Maryhill Road home. “There are new families coming to the church here, and they’d like to send their kids to the school here.”

He’s planning to start a petition to see if residents are willing to do more than discuss the planned closure of the school.

“All it is, is talk – nobody’s put in any action yet,” he noted. “I know everybody in town, so I plan to go around and talk to people.

“My goal is to keep the school here for future kids.”

For its part, the school board is pushing ahead with plans for a new building in the south end of Breslau.

It’s secured land at the corner of Starlight Avenue and Trowbridge Street with plans to build a school for some 250 students, with space for future expansion should it be necessary, says Shesh Maharaj, chief financial officer for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

There will be an EarlyON Family Centre, as well as an 88 space childcare on site.

“All of the design work has been done.  The school will be modeled after our newest school, St. Vincent de Paul in Cambridge, scaled for the appropriate number of students,” said Maharaj in an email this week.

“At present we are waiting for a Ministry of Education approval to proceed to tender for a contractor.  The new school will be open and ready to accept students in September of 2020.”

Having the board reverse course is an uphill battle, but the current school’s heritage value – it’s designated as such by Woolwich Township – makes it worth having as a community resource, Weiler said.

The school long serves as centre of village activity prior to a relatively new community centre being opened, for instance.

The current yellow brick building constructed in 1898, the third iteration since a school was first built in the village in 1834, was augmented with additions in 1965 and 1968.

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