oshawa schools

This town in Ontario is littered with 'ghost schools' that have an uncertain future

If you drive around central Oshawa you might be surprised to find out that there are several really old public schools all located within a five minute ride of each other that closed down in the early 2000s.

The first to go was Cedardale Public School, in 2002.

Then, in 2012, Durham District School Board (DDSB) closed three more public schools — Harmony, Ritson, and Duke of Edinburgh.

All of them are still standing decades after they were built.

Harmony Road Public School was built in 1871, as one of the first eight schools in Oshawa.

Ritson Public School's original building was constructed in 1812, with more additions in 1923 and 1928. It's currently unused, but the Region of Durham, who purchased the property, has plans to develop it into housing.

These two schools are boarded up, silent, and empty, while the Duke of Edinburgh building is still operating under a different name – Clara Hughes Public School. It serves as a replacement for the two other schools that were closed in September 2012.

But at Cedardale Public School, built in 1920 and older than the City of Oshawa, something strange is going on. Odd noises can be heard at night, and sometimes, even during the day.

Spooky, huh? Not really.

The two-storey school's classrooms are actually being used as recording and rehearsal studios. Walking through the hallways, you can hear different genres of music, from dancehall to electronic to heavy metal, reverberating through the red classroom doors.

The Rehearsal Factory, or Melody Rehearsal as it's also called, is a business that began operating in 1989, with other locations in Etobicoke, Mississauga and Hamilton.

Because their studios are further from the core of the city, they offer more affordable space for artists, something desperately needed by Toronto's creative communities.

In August 2021, the Cedardale Public School was put up for sale by its owner, The Rehearsal Factory, and soon a developer expressed interest in building a two-storey townhouse on the property. Former students rallied against the possibility of the building being destroyed.

"It's our childhood. It was my safe place to go. It's where I learned right from wrong," said Margaret Arnold, a student in 1956, interviewed by Jennifer O'Meara for DurhamRegion.com.

In 2023, the city voted to designate the Cedardale Public School a heritage property, which would put it under more protection.

But as of now, the final fate of this school is still undecided.

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