Limestone District School Board looking to sell Frontenac Public School

One of the oldest school buildings in downtown Kingston, Frontenac Public School, may hit the local real estate market soon, pending decisions made at the next Board Meeting of the Limestone District School Board (LDSB).

A current photograph of the former Frontenac Public School shows the old front doors of the school — which went unused in the last years the school was in operation — have certainly seen better days in the building’s 125+ years on Cowdy Street. The Limestone District School Board’s Board of Trustees will discuss the potential sale of the property at an upcoming meeting. Photo by Peter McKenty/Kingstonist.

At their upcoming meeting to take place on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, the LDSB Board of Trustees will look into the potential sale of the former Frontenac Public School property, located at 38 Cowdy Street.

A Report for Action from Superintendent of Business, Craig Young, on the ‘Disposition of School Property at 38 Cowdy Street’ will be received by the Board, “to provide information to Trustees relating to the disposition of” the property. This comes as a result of a process that began nearly 10 years ago, when the Kingston North Public Accommodation Review Committee report was presented to the Board with “the recommendation to the seek Ministry of Education funding for the construction of a new elementary school” in November 2012, the report states.

As many in Kingston will recall, that recommendation sought to consolidate Frontenac and First Avenue Public Schools and, with funding granted from the Ministry, Molly Brant Elementary School was built in advance of the 2016-2017 school year. Following this, “First Avenue Public School went through the disposition process and was subsequently sold,” the report notes. Thereafter, Kingston Secondary School was constructed, resulting in more brand new school space in the area.

“The Ministry of Education provided a temporary identification number for the school facility at 38 Cowdy St., for it to be used for a secondary school site while Kingston Secondary School was being constructed. The Ministry’s temporary naming of this site is QECVI & Holding. Limestone DSB operated programming at the building under the name Katarokwi Learning Centre,” the report continues.

The second ‘main entrance’ used at Frontenac Public School after the main doors were retired, also served as an entrance to the Katarokwi Learning Centre. Photo by Peter McKenty/Kingstonist.

In fact, the Katarokwi Learning Centre, an LDSB alternative learning centre, operated out of the north end of the former Frontenac Public School until June of 2022. The centre just recently moved to its new location at 164 Van Order Drive, which is the LDSB-owned building across the street from the Board’s Loyalist Collegiate Vocational Institute (LCVI), the Board confirmed on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

It should be noted that Frontenac Public School has a storied past, which pre-dates the actual building and location in question. The school came to exist, ironically, with the merger of two schools in the late 1800s, one of which was Depot School, built at the corner of Railway and Montreal Streets (the old limestone building that now houses the offices of Town Homes Kingston) to provide a space for educating the influx of children of the families settled in Kingston’s Inner Harbour and around the Grand Trunk Railway outer station circa the 1860s.

Erected in 1896, the current Frontenac Public School building is much larger than the original, which was rebuilt in the 1940s. Prior to that, however, Frontenac Public was the site of one of Kingston’s earliest infamous and tragic events. In 1902, a 14-year-old pupil was shot by her classmate, who reportedly believed the pistol he’d brought with him concealed in his jacket was not loaded. Sadly, this was not the case, and the student, Beatrice Holland, was killed in the incident, which comes up often in books on Kingston’s early years.

But Frontenac Public went on to grow and, at points, thrive. By the early 1950s, it was deemed a “senior school,” again being part of a student amalgamation. This time grade 7 and 8 students from area schools of the time (such as Robert Meek, Macdonald, and First Avenue schools) attended Frontenac Public and, in 1966, it became the first school in Kingston with a fully-dedicated music room, under the direction of Charlotte Clark. Clark later founded the Young Choristers Frontenac choirs (later Young Choristers Limestone), which operated for decades throughout Kingston and Frontenac County.

The signage showing the school spirit of the student body that once filled the halls of Frontenac Public School remains on the north side of the building. Photo by Peter McKenty/Kingstonist.

However, after that, the school’s enrolment levels dwindled. Frontenac Public School then shared its space with a daycare, some community groups, and the aforementioned Katarokwi Learning Centre, before it was shuttered. Much of what is documented about the school’s history can be viewed at the Frontenac County Schools Museum.

According to the LDSB, the property is 0.64 hectares (approx. 1.5 acres), with the building itself accounting for 4,530 square metres (approx. 48,761 sq. ft.). The schoolyard of the property is “partially owned by the board and an agreement with the City of Kingston school use on the adjoining city parkette).”

“The facility at 38 Cowdy St. is now closed and does not have regular custodial staff present,” the report concludes before recommending that the LDSB resolve that the property is no longer needed for the purposes of the Board, and that “the Board authorize the Superintendent of Business to undertake the notification and disposition process of 38 Cowdy Street in accordance with the Ministry of Education regulations including but not limited to Ontario Regulation 444/98 – Disposition of Surplus Real Property.” The report does not disclose the approximate value of the former Frontenac Public School property.

The LDSB Board of Trustees will meet publicly beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. Details on the meeting and a link to watch the meeting live can be found on the Limestone District School Board website.

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