By Brandy Harrison
KEMPTVILLE — New students will crowd the hallways at Kemptville College this fall — but they won’t be studying agriculture.
Opening a new school for Grades 1 to 9, the French Catholic board will move into two buildings in September, as well as use the college’s gymnasium, the W.B. George Centre. The sister school to École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Marguerite-Bourgeoys in Merrickville intends to expand to a full high school.
In March 2014, the University of Guelph announced it would close the 98-year-old agricultural college, graduating the final agriculture class last spring.
Heavy equipment, horticulture technician, and dairy herdsperson apprenticeships will wrap up this year and the university will use 30 acres of research plots at the campus until 2018 in addition to 150 acres at Winchester over the long term.
But at least six to 12 individuals or organizations are interested in leasing space at the campus — some with an agricultural bent, says Brian Carré, the Municipality of North Grenville’s chief administrative officer.
The municipality is in talks with the province to buy the land and buildings, intending to set up a non-profit manager to oversee a multi-institutional centre. Agriculture is the priority, but courses in health and wellness, business, and trades training are also in the mix.
But before anything goes ahead, the municipality is waiting on a business feasibility study it contracted to BDO Canada in mid-December. It’s expected to be completed by the end of March.
“We refer to it as a go or no-go point. It’s a critical piece in the path forward,” says Carré.
Until its agreement expires in March 2018, Guelph will operate and upkeep the college.
Two-thirds of the milking cows along with heifers and calves were moved to the university’s new dairy research facility in Elora in September. The college’s early model Lely robotic milker will stay in Kemptville, pending the possible return of an ag program.