Proposed school site along Grandin Avenue – looking towards East Boundary Road.

by Tristan Turner

Following months of uncertainty, Morinville Public School parents could now have a middle school site in town satisfying to the school board and the Town. The new public middle school is to be located in a residential area, with claimed adequate access to parking and growth for the school.

The new site is at the south-east corner of town, between East Boundary Road and Grandin Drive. The area of town, Grandin Heights, will see a major development of residential properties in the indeterminate future.

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Council unanimously passed First Reading of a slate of bylaws which allows for the changes to the Grandin Heights ASP that would allow the project to move forward.

The issue of a new location for Morinville’s public school’s district has been a contentious one. The beginning of 2016 saw blame being thrown between the Town, the school board and the province for what had been identified as an inadequate school site behind the current arena, leading to delays in the project. Sturgeon School Division at the time sent a frustrated letter home with Morinville Public School parents blaming the Town and Province for the botched project.

Now, they seemed to have buried the hatchet. Two trustees, and the Superintendent Dr. Michèle Dick of the Sturgeon School Division were present at the meeting, beaming while Mayor Holmes made the public announcement. They noted their satisfaction and support of the project.

Mayor Holmes also hoped to forget old wounds, thanking the Province and the School Board for their work and approval of the project changes.

”We are appreciative of the fact that the Government of Alberta and the Sturgeon School Division and their board have been open to us having dialogue and conversations about this as well.”

Mayor Holmes also congratulated Town Administration for their work on the project.

“This has been something that our Director of Planning and Economic Development [Greg Hoffman], and our CAO [Andy Isbister] have been working on [for a while],” Holmes said. “We had our very first meeting with TAG Developments in February, with the two of them and myself to… ask the developers in the community to redoing their area structure plans looking at additional school site opportunities, since the very beginning of the announcement. This is a huge step forward, but it’s taken months of work.”

The location was made possible by the donation of land by the landowner and developer TAG Developments, with EDS Environmental Design employee Dr. John Buchko being responsible for working with the Town to negotiate these changes to their Area Structure Plan.

Buchko said the decision wasn’t all charity, and that the school site would increase surrounding land value, but also admitted that the landowners wanted to do their part to contribute.

“I think that the development industry understands that it is in everyone’s best interest to do good gestures like providing school sites,” Buchko said. “Also, it has some market value, with the school there it is attractive to many home buyers, but at the same time, I feel that the development industry as a whole just likes working with communities to help with their needs.”

Buchko also commented that there would not be a problem of getting adequate servicing so the school could be built before the rest of the development, as it is already adjacent to currently serviced lots.

Dick personally thanked Bushko for working with the developer to contribute the land to the project. “It sounds as though you have done a great deal of work on this project and we are very appreciative,” Dick said.

As for when the school will be completed, that’s a matter for Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Education to work out. Mayor Holmes said she hoped that there would be more updates to timelines on the project ahead of Second and Third Reading,

A public hearing for the bylaw will be held at Council’s last meeting before summer recess on June 28. This will be ahead of Second and potentially Third Reading.

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