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Boarding school for Upper Clements gets a step closer

The former theme park at Upper Clements in Annapolis County will be transformed into the first franchise of Gordonstoun Scotland, an international private boarding school. The first phase of the $62-million project is expected to be complete by September 2021 when 200 students will start school. Enrollment will rise to 600 by the end of the fourth year.
The former theme park at Upper Clements in Annapolis County is to be transformed into the first franchise of Gordonstoun School, an international private boarding school. The first phase of the $62-million project is scheduled to be complete by September 2021. Contributed

COVID might delay opening, but plans continue for a large boarding school in Annapolis County

Annapolis County warden Timothy Habinski still has the opening of Gordonstoun Nova Scotia written on his calendar for next September, but it’s in pencil.

The private school is to be the first franchise of the famed Gordonstoun School of Scotland, alumni of which include Prince Phillip and Prince Charles. A 250-acre campus is to be built on the grounds of the former Upper Clements Park.

Annapolis County Council this week signed a contract with developer E.A. Farren of Saint John, N.B.  That followed a vote last week to begin the public process to reconsider the county’s municipal planning strategy and land use by-law for the area where the school is to be relocated.

The by-law change would allow the land to be zoned institutional.

Construction has not started on the $62-million project, but the school is scheduled to open in September of 2021, with 200 students enrolled, eventually increasing to 600.

“I think it’s challenging,” Habinsky said.  “I know that the developer had intended to have a portion of the build, at least, constructed as a modular build, which can speed up your end point quite significantly. We’re all dealing with a big bag of unknowns because of COVID-19, and nobody could have anticipated exactly how many of our operations would be disrupted by the pandemic when it first emerged.

“We want to be ambitious with our time frame but I think we’ll also be realistic, and if it looks like it’s not feasible we’ll shrug and make it 2022.”

The municipality has agreed to invest $7.2-million in the project, all of which is to be repaid. 

“There’s security from the actual property itself and, in addition, the developer has agreed to provide the municipality with a dividend in perpetuity as a thank you for being the initial funder,” said Habinsky, who’s “as confident as ever” that Annapolis County will soon be home to 600 boarding students from Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

“This particular project, when we call it a game changer, it truly is a game changer,” he said. “A project like this has the potential to have a positive impact on your local economy, and virtually every dimension of what happens in the municipality, not just for a year, not for a couple of years, but for decades.”

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