US & Canada

Chapman's Ice Cream wants to keep Ontario school open

Ice cream Image copyright Getty Images Entertainment
Image caption Homework?

A Canadian ice cream manufacturer hopes it can give something back to its local community, by keeping an elementary school in Ontario province from shutting down.

Chapman's Ice Cream initially offered to purchase Beavercrest Community School in Markdale for about CA$1m ($741,000; £596,000).

"This is the community that helped build us to what we are," vice-president Ashley Chapman told the BBC.

Although regulations and an asbestos problem might make buying the school difficult, he said the company will work with the school board to come up with a solution that works, and intends to help cover some costs.

"Somebody's got to step to the plate and somebody's got to help fix the situation," he said.

Mr Chapman proposed buying the building and leasing it back to the school board at a reasonable rate in order to keep the school open.

But the aging building could require millions of dollars worth of repairs, and regulations make it tricky for a private company to buy a public building still intended for public use.

"Essentially what we were proposing was a giant band aid to delay the situation," he said.

Image copyright Chapman’s Ice Cream
Image caption Chapman’s Ice Cream factory in Markdale, Ontario hopes to hire an additional 400 people over the next five years.

The school is one of about 600 - many in rural areas - that the province has earmarked to be shut down in order to save costs.

If Beavercrest were to close, children from the town would have to spend up to 90 minutes in a bus commuting to one of three other schools in the area. It has 195 students but has a capacity for 319, according to a recent report by the local school board.

"We all realise that something needs to happen and something needs to change, but whatever happens needs to benefit the students," he said.

An alumnus of Beavercrest himself, Mr Chapman said helping isn't just the right thing to do, it's smart business.

Chapman's, which was founded in 1973 by his parents, is one of the largest ice cream manufacturers in Canada and has doubled its workforce over the past six years, he said.

The company intends to expand even more, and that means they need to attract people to the small town of Markdale, which has a population of just 1,325.

Mr Chapman said he's already struggled to attract people to the area, even after raising wages.

"Where are these people going to come from, especially if we don't have an elementary school in this area?" he said.

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