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School renaming hopes to heal ‘bitter feelings’ on closure

 Renovated G.R. Allan renamed Cootes Paradise Elementary School

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

George R. Allan is giving up his spotlight to the natural splendor lying just beyond the backyard of his namesake Westdale public school.

Trustees voted 8-2 Monday to rename the new combined home for Prince Philip and George R. Allan students Cootes Paradise Elementary School.

The King Street West school is undergoing $6 million in renovations to accommodate students from Prince Philip, scheduled to close at the end of June.

Judith Bishop, the area’s trustee, said the new moniker had strong support among volunteers on a naming committee drawn from both school communities.

She said it also recognizes that the school backs onto Cootes Paradise, a nationally important sanctuary for birds and reptiles that is home to more than 750 native plant species.

“It’s no surprise to anyone that there have been very bitter feelings in this community over the closure of Prince Philip school, so in this particular instance it’s really important that we have a name for the new school which has community acceptance,” she said.

“The committee said very, very clearly that a geographic name is neutral and it’s one we can all get behind. I see this name as a positive way of moving forward in a positive direction.”

Only Mountain trustees Wes Hicks and Lillian Orban objected to the change, with both arguing the school should continue to bear the name of Allan, who served as the area’s trustee for 35 years after being first elected in 1904.

The other option offered by the naming committee, which was required to submit three names, was Prince George Elementary School, which would have honoured the royal baby who could one day become Canada’s king.

In a separate vote, trustees agreed to name portions of the school after Allan and Prince Philip to ensure they will continue to be remembered by students passing through its doors.

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