A group that supports the developmentally disabled is scrambling after a land deal collapsed.
The Vernon and District Association for Community Living has learned the Vernon School District will no longer sell the Dorothy Alexander Centre, which is part of the West Vernon school site.
“It really was a surprise,” said Eileen Howells, VDACL executive director.
“We thought we had an agreement and out of the blue it’s all gone.”
VDACL and the school district reached an agreement in 2009 over the 8,500-square-foot building and the Ministry of Education approved selling the property to VDACL in 2010.
School district officials, however, insist they have been open with VDACL about needing the Dorothy Alexander Centre for the alternate learning program, which assists teens and adults.
“We have told them for the last couple of years that we needed space and we weren’t going to renew their lease,” said Bev Rundell, superintendent.
VDACL, also known as Venture Training, has leased the building since 1961 and once purchased, the plan was to expand the programs available.
“It made sense because of the programs we have in close vicinity there,” said Howells, adding that the focus was going to be on fitness and theatre.
“Our goal is all about inclusion in the community. We wanted an art studio there so we could bring people in so our clients could have opportunities.”
VDACL has three months to move existing programs out of the centre.
“We need to do plan B but we’re not sure what buildings in the community are out there,” said Howells.
Rundell says the district considered other options for alternate learning but the Dorothy Alexander Centre made the most sense.
“To build a space or find a space to lease, we don’t have the financial resources to do that,” she said.
“We have to do what is best for our students.”
Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, had helped convince the Ministry of Education to approve the purchase to VDACL. He was unaware of the district’s decision until he was contacted by The Morning Star.
“My understanding was the process (purchase) was moving along. This is new to me,” he said, adding that he will pursue further information from the school district.