Families are struggling to find summer camp alternatives for their kids after the sudden closure of the Ontario Science Centre last month. Advocates say the beloved institution was appreciated not only for its year-round programming and exhibits, but also for its camps.

“It's really devastating for every family and every kid who is in the summer programs at the Ontario Science Centre,” said Jason Ash, co-chair of Save Ontario's Science Centre, a group that has been opposing the Ford government's relocation of the facility since 2023.

“A lot of these families come from all over, but many are working families who can't afford to send their kids to summer camps in places like Georgian Bay or cottage country. They could walk to the Science Centre, which was affordable, educational, immersive and fun, contributing to their child's development.”

The Ford government announced the closure of the Ontario Science Centre on June 21, immediately canceling summer camps and barring entry to new visitors. According to the province, the sudden closure was necessary due to a new report from professional engineers, which found serious structural issues with the building. The report indicated these issues, specifically with some roof tiles, could become critical as early as this winter under the pressure of heavy snow.

The province said it will reimburse members and summer camp participants, and offer another free summer camp option to affected families.

But Ash said: “It is a heritage building. It is heritage-listed. People have gone through that building who've become amazing scientists, astronauts, physicists, medical doctors — you name it.”

“The Science Centre has had a profound impact on all Canadians, and it has directly influenced the development of about 3,000 science centres around the world. To close it so abruptly on a lie is ridiculous,” he added.

The Ford government's decision to close the Ontario Science Centre has sparked extensive criticism. Many advocates note the engineer’s report, used to justify closure for safety reasons, had proposed alternative measures, such as restricting access to vulnerable roof areas and installing temporary reinforcements and horizontal hoarding. Moriyama Teshima Architects, the firm that designed the centre, suggested the province's abrupt closure was politically motivated, and offered free repair services to keep it open.

"We offer our architectural services pro bono to the Government of Ontario to realize the necessary roof repairs and we encourage the structural and building science community to similarly offer pro bono services for this scope to accomplish the recommended repairs immediately,” said the architecture firm.

The Ford government's decision to close the Ontario Science Centre has sparked extensive criticism. Many advocates note the engineer’s report, used to justify closure for safety reasons, had proposed alternative measures. #OSC #Kids summer camps.

“The offer of our services, combined with funding that has been generously offered by members of the community, should leave zero barriers for the province to reverse this decision and pursue a path that will keep this vital resource safely operating for years to come. We are optimistic that the government will listen to the voices of our community and move forward with a revised plan for the OSC.”

Save Ontario’s Science Centre is also fighting the Ford government's controversial decision to relocate the institution as part of its Ontario Place redevelopment.

The government argued, based on a business case report, that the existing building is projected to reach the end of its useful design life in three to five years. Relocating the Science Centre to Ontario Place is expected to save taxpayers more than $257 million over a 50-year period compared to staying at the current location, the report said.

Other opponents have argued that parts of the building are safe until October 31, 2024 and are offering donations, urging the government to keep the centre open for children all summer.

“You keep the Science Centre open for children all summer, and I'll personally pay for the 2024 panel remediation recommended by your engineers. Deal? Or, do you have a different agenda? I'll send the wire Monday,” said Adam McNamara, a computer scientist, entrepreneur and investor, on his X account tagging Premier Ford and Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure.

“Giving tens of thousands of children and their families the opportunity to fall in love with science seems like a great way to be helpful.”

While both McNamara and Moriyama Teshima Architects confirm that they have not sent their offer to the government through official channels, they announced their offers publicly and have not yet been contacted by the Ford government to discuss it.

Toronto City Council passed a motion urging the city to take control of the Ontario Science Centre from the provincial government and explore keeping it at its current location. The city and its conservation authority own the property with a lease to the science centre.

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