Monday, September 18, 2017
Another Surplus School
There was a time when Lambeth students wishing to further their education after elementary school had to take the traction line to London or board in the city. The building known as the Lambeth Continuation School came to their rescue when it opened in 1925 to teach Forms 1 to 4, later called Grades 9 to 12. Students taking Grade 13 still had to go to London.
After the continuation school closed in 1949, students once again headed into the city to attend high school. The building then became S. S. # 17, later known as Lambeth Public School. In 1965 its name changed again to M. B. McEachren School after a dedicated teacher named Margaret B. McEachren who taught there for 23 years. Additional classrooms and wings were added over the years.
Declared surplus by the Thames Valley District School Board in 2010, the old school has been owned by Lambeth Health Organization since 2015. Their plan is to demolish the building and build a medical centre on the site. The proposed building intentionally pays tribute to the school, with its red brick horizontal appearance. But why build something similar when you could just renovate the original?
On September 11, 2017, London City Council's Planning & Environment Committee (PEC) voted to remove the school from the city's heritage inventory list, just one year after city politicians voted to preserve it as a heritage property. Odd, since the heritage value hasn't changed. And Lambeth isn't overly endowed with heritage buildings.
All of this leads to the question, what does our society do with all its surplus schools? There are a great many of them everywhere, due to the decline in enrollment. Not surprising - the baby boom is over. Since 2006, the TVDSB has closed 33 schools. (For pictures of schools recently sold, see here.) Not all of them are architectural gems, of course, especially the ones built in mid-20th century which usually look like concrete bunkers. It would be difficult to justify saving all of them, especially since many sit on valuable land in key locations.
But the older heritage schools with style are more worth preserving. McEachren School - like quite a few others - could be renovated into a health centre, community centre, offices, shopping centre, college, apartments ... Just look here, here, and here. (OK, the last link shows the school being demolished but it was certainly successful for a while, each classroom being a separate shop). Personally, I'd like to move into the McEachren Apartments.
Update, September 20, 2017: City Council has decided to designate the school property with Councillor Jesse Helmer suggesting the building be renovated for a new use.