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Police seek suspicious male

Police are reminding parents to talk to their children about the danger of strangers after an incident Wednesday afternoon at Regent Park Public School.

Between 4 and 4:30 p.m., an unidentified male approached two children at the school and made inappropriate comments to them.

The male in question walked toward the youths, but did not attempt any physical contact with them, Orillia OPP Const. Jim Edwards said.

The incidents are similar in nature – and location – to one that occurred on High Street in April 2014 and one on Simcoe Street in February of that same year. The suspect in those incidents was never arrested and could be the person police are looking for in this case.

“We’re definitely looking at that possibility,” Edwards said. “(The incidents featured) the same type of circumstances, other than this one was actually on school property.”

The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 30 years old, clean shaven with pimples covering his face and shaved brown hair.

He was last seen wearing black boots that folded at the top with black liner, dark jeans with a rip in one of the knees, black puffy coat/vest, black sweater with hood/red lining on the cuffs and a black toque under the hood.

He may also walk with a limp.

Anyone with information is asked to contact OPP at 888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

Cabinet minister holds roundtable on youth engagement in Penetanguishene

SIMCOE COUNTY – Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs met local officials and youth leaders Monday in Penetanguishene to discuss ways to engage young people in Simcoe County and across the province.

“There are a lot of barriers to youth engagement,” said Jeff Leal. “We’re looking at ways to break them down.”

Attendees told Leal one of the reasons young people choose to leave the county is lack of educational opportunities. Tiny Township resident Alex Laurin said there needs to be increased investment in post-secondary education in order to keep youths.

“There’s no university up here,” he said. “A lot of people don’t want to come back after they’ve gone away to school.”

Springwater Mayor Bill French noted cutbacks in education, particularly closing schools, also have an effect on youth engagement.

“How can we expect young people to stay involved in their communities if they need to get on a bus and commute to school?” he said.

Wasaga Beach Mayor Brian Smith agreed, noting his town does not have a high school.

“High school is where people decide their home is the place to be,” he said. “We need more funds to make sure high schools in smaller communities stay open.”

Leal said the province’s current Grants for Student Needs funding system may be in need of a rethink, as it tends to lead to the closing of schools with low enrolment.

“It’s based on the old idea of bums in seats,” he said. “Maybe we need to look at a new formula that takes into account other concerns.”

Coun. Cody Oschefski of Midland said more should be done to ensure youths are working at municipal jobs, which could lead to entry-level positions when they graduate.

“It seems like the jobs that go to students and youth are the first to go when there are cutbacks,” he said. “We need to make sure we have more student responsibilities in government.”

Innisfil Deputy Mayor Lynn Dollin said officials need to do a better job attracting young people to jobs that aren’t viewed as “sexy,” such as water treatment and personal support workers.

“These are good-paying jobs with benefits and pensions,” she said. “But they can’t be filled because, for some reason, people don’t want to do them.”

Leal said he intends to bring input from the meeting to cabinet.

“We develop a conversation and a dialogue through these meetings,” he said. “It’s part of making public policy collectively.”