As opinions and protests were heard in the halls of Kelly Road secondary school last weekend during the 34th annual Kelly Road Craft Fair about the fate of the event's future, the school district was quick to respond, reassuring those who took to social media to continue the conversation that craft fairs and other public events will continue to be hosted at schools throughout the district.
"When we look at the joint-use agreement between the city and the school district there are certain spaces that can be booked for community use," Tim Bennett, School District 57 board trustee chair, said. "So looking at booking events that fall most nights after 6 p.m. and on weekends are most normally booked through the city as part of our joint-use agreement."
Bennett said he was on social media over the weekend and read some of the concerns about this Kelly Road Craft Fair being the last.
"We heard from the community that this was because the school district had said the craft fair could not happen," Bennett said. "I can say that at no point has the board had a conversation that the craft fair could not happen at Kelly Road. However, there are things that need to be taken into consideration when groups book our facilities. One is adhering to the school district policy and the second is ensuring they're meeting the regulation of the fire code."
Things like making sure no tables are blocking fire exits, and making sure there is enough room between tables to make it safely accessible as well as keeping within limits of capacity of the space are some of the factors to be considered, Bennett added.
"These are the new realities the district and the community are dealing with for the safety of everyone involved," he said.
Bennett said he was engaging with residents on Facebook about the requirement to have tarps covering the floor underneath tables to prevent damage. All the rules apply to all venues, so just because Kelly Road school has old floors doesn't mean the rules should not be followed.
"We as a school district spend public dollars," Bennett said. "We have a responsibility to prolong the life of our assets as long as we can. No, the current Kelly Road does not have a new floor but there are many craft fairs that happen in our schools and buildings that do have new floors and what we make one do, we can't make exceptions for another. So I know there was some push back regarding that as well and for us it's about how we can best utilize tax-payer dollars and that includes prolonging the life of our assets."
Organizers of any event are encouraged to reach out to district staff if they need more information, he added.
"Trustees are available if there are questions," Bennett said. "We hope there is an opportunity to have the craft fair back at Kelly Road next year. It's going to be a beautiful building. As long as the organizers are willing to work within the restrictions the school district has to put in place, especially around fire code, then we can have a really successful year. Kelly Road Craft Fair has an amazing legacy in the community. It's probably one of the largest community-run craft fairs and generates a lot of money to support organizations such as the Kelly Road dry grad so I 100 per cent understand the stress and anxiety and anger that the community is feeling and the board just hopes we can reiterate to the community that we are willing and wanting to work with organizers to ensure the craft fair continues on its great legacy in our community."
Bennett said if people would like to speak with him directly call 250-649-8316 or Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.