by Lucie Roy
Morinville Public’s junior high was one of the topics at the Sturgeon School Division Committee of the Whole Feb. 11. The board discussed the project’s current status, discussions with Morinville Town Council, the idea of a temporary school, and preferred alternate locations.
Chair Tracy Nowak said the project was at a standstill and that Town Council had reached out to David Eggen, Minister of Education. She and Superintendent Michele Dick were invited, and will be attending the meeting.
“My hope would be that a solution would be found and that we can get started on building our school,” Nowak said later in the meeting. “There is pressure there.”
Superintendent Dick echoed the sentiments. “We are all in this together,” she said. “I think everybody wants the same thing, but my perspective which is a state of the art school, for the students here in Morinville and we have to get it right. From my perspective, I think we are all committed to getting it right and, at this moment in time, I don’t know that any of us know what right exactly looks like. But I certainly hear that everybody is committed to that undertaking.”
Nowak touched on the package of correspondence Council presented to the public at their Feb. 9 meeting, outlining the Town’s perspective on the project’s timeline to date. The SSD Board Chair said she agreed a huge amount of work had been done, and indicated SSD had done similar work as well.
“Our understanding is that the government is the funder and the project managers of this project, and we are the client, and the municipality is required to provide and procure, prepare and make ready a site,” Nowak said. “We have also been told that the government will not intervene. We understand there is a problem in town. We understand that of the sites readily available [this is the one] which is serviced. We understand the huge cost implications. We are at a point where we are challenged to find a solution that meets everyone’s requirements.”
Where will students go?
Superintendent Dr. Michele Dick said eight modulars and one washroom unit would be added to the Morinville Public School site for the 2016-2017 school year and that the Division was working with Morinville’s Planning and Development Department on it.
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Status on further modulars for 2017-2018 are not known at this time.
“We have not received any further information with respect to that particular question, so we are not exactly sure at this point in time what status that would be,” Dick said.
The Superintendent said she is proactively looking at schools in the surrounding communities to see what capacity would be, what utilization is, and preparing a report for the Board of Trustees for the end of the school year in June. Dick said she was also examining some of the Division’s options and other opportunities for placing students.
The Superintendent said they had to be creative in some ways because they understand parents are not amiable to have students bussed out of the Town of Morinville.
The Division is projecting somewhere in the range of 825 students for the 2016-2017 and have asked Principal Wayne Rufiange to look at the school year 2017-18. Rough estimates indicate 2017-2018 could have 950 students, 134 students more than the capacity of the school with the additional modulars.
Temporary School rejected
Mayor Lisa Holmes notion of a temporary school was rejected during the question and answer portion of the meeting.
“Of course providing education and the associated infrastructure is the work of a school board and we are always interested in input from the community,” Dick said. “And so a temporary school is something that is a piece of input, that comes forward naturally. We will be taking a look at that along with everything else. Is it something that is on the table right now, though? It is not something our parents expressed interest in,- absolutely not.”
Dick went on to say it is commonly accepted the “Town takes good care of Town facilities as they appropriately should, and the school divisions take good care of educational infrastructure as we appropriately should.”
Morinville Public School Trustee Misty Featherley was more direct on her thoughts on the idea of a temporary school. “The parents are absolutely against it,” she said. “They feel that it would be a temporary solution that could lead to longer term solution, and that is not what they are looking for. So they have asked me to absolutely, in representing them, say that they are not in agreement with this.”
Uncertainty on remaining planning dollars
Nowak said she was told the portion of the $750,000 the government awarded to plan the school was used. “All I was told was that the portion for the architect work on design has been spent,” she said. “I did not hear that full $750,000 has been spent. Again, I don’t know how the government doles that out.”
Superintendent Dick said a portion of the $750, 000 was for meetings, a portion was used for some initial engagement, and the architect has done a few conceptual drawings as he was helping the Board understand how a school would or would not fit into the pieces of land behind the arena. “We are at the end of that portion of the $750,000, and – of course – we are significantly delayed because we should now have the architect actually doing the drawings,” Dick said. “But we are not yet at the stage where the architect could begin this more than conceptual drawing that would then come back and be presented to parents for input. So it is that particular portion, and we are not going to eat into the portion that is to pay the architect to actually do his job to sit down and do the design.”
South Glens or rec land preferred
Nowak mentioned South Glens, Westwinds, and multi-plex land as alternatives to the arena lands off of 104 Street, but it is South Glens or the new rec land that she prefers.
“If there was a possibility of looking at South Glens site and having it serviced, that would be desirable,” she said. “Or if there was any opportunity – and the Board has on numerous occasions expressed an interest in partnering in multi-plex site – but again the timelines wouldn’t allow that. The uncertainty and that is why we are at where we are. We are trying to make something happen. Are we hoping for consideration? Absolutely. I am not aware of anything else.”
In a letter to the editor from the Town sent to media Feb. 11, Mayor Lisa Holmes said, “The Town was actively pursuing a partnership with the Government of Alberta on the new Recreation Project lands until SSD made the decision that they wanted the current arena property in a letter dated February 20, 2015.”
A meeting between Minister David Eggen, Council and SSD Board Chair and Superintendent is set for Feb. 17. A joint Council and SSD Board meeting is planned for some point following that meeting.