by Colin Smith
Town of Morinville staff met Monday with representatives of Sturgeon School Division and the provincial government to push forward the new public 5-9 school project.
Council was briefed Tuesday evening on the discussions about the proposed site for a new public school in Morinville, which involved staff from the Alberta Transportation, Education, and Infrastructure departments.
“The update that we received last night is that the meeting between the provincial government departments, our [Interim] CAO, and SSD’s Superintendent was very positive and productive,” said Mayor Lisa Holmes.
“They have planned a second all-day meeting to be had within the next two weeks to discuss the site issues in more detail, and will report back to our Council and the SSD Board before our joint meeting in April.”
The will to get the project underway is there, according to Sturgeon School Division Superintendent Michèle Dick.
“I believe all participants are committed to making the school a reality and to getting the project back on track and moving forward,” said Dick.
“There was agreement, however, that there are a number of questions still to be answered and issues to be addressed. Another more lengthy meeting is being scheduled for the week of March 21st.”
The province has approved funding for the new junior/senior high school, which is expected to cost $25 million and take 2½ years to complete once construction begins.
That has been put on hold by Sturgeon School Division concerns about the school’s proposed location behind the current Ray MacDonald Arena.
The School Division questions the site’s suitability because of road access and safety concerns while Morinville officials have insisted that there is no viable alternative.
Alberta Education Minister David Eggen met with the two sides Feb. 17 to get the project moving and indicated the concerned provincial departments would provide assistance to help make that happen.
In a recent reply to a letter from a concerned Morinville citizen, Eggen affirmed the government’s commitment to getting school projects completed as quickly as possible to help accommodate the growing student population.
The Minister stated however that the site proposed by the Town of Morinville, containing multiple parcels of land with many restrictions, is considered by technical experts to be incapable of accommodating the new school and its possible future expansion. As the design of a school is tailored to the site, until the site issues have been resolved, design cannot proceed.
“Staff from Alberta Infrastructure, Alberta Education, Alberta Municipal Affairs and Alberta Transportation will work with Sturgeon School Division in negotiating a secure and suitable site for the new public school,” Eggen said. “We look forward to resuming the design process as soon as possible.”
The project was to have been completed in time for the 2017-18 school year. It’s now hoped that the school will open for the 2018-19 school year.