by Jennifer Lavallee
Morinville News Correspondent
Alberta Education recently agreed more space is needed in Morinville’s only public school, Morinville Public (MPS); earlier this month, the government approved three new portable classrooms for MPS which will be installed for the next academic year (2017/2018). More space is needed to deal with the school’s surging student population.
Wayne Rufiange, Principal at MPS, explained the school anticipates its student population will rise by another 10 per cent in the 2017/2018 school year (an overall increase of about 80 students). The school, which has experienced dramatic growth in the five years it’s been in operation, currently has 785 students (compared to 40 students in 2012).
Rufiange said the projected growth for next year is due in large part to the school’s youngest learners; “If you add the [approx. 100 Kindergarten students] starting next year, and subtract the grade nine students leaving for grade 10; our overall enrolment will be up by 80 students.”
In terms of planning, the Principal indicated the new portables would be attached to the nine portables that were added to the school last summer (2016), further reducing MPS’ field space. However, Rufiange said that likely will not be an issue. “[That] area is not currently being used for recess or outdoor programming,” he remarked.
To legally place the portable classrooms on the property, approval is required from the Town of Morinville. In the past, the Town has publically said it will approve required portables at MPS while the new Sturgeon School Division (SSD) school—which, initially, will include grades five through nine—is being planned and constructed.
The Morinville News attempted to confirm if this was still the case with the Town, however, Greg Hofmann, Director of Planning and Development, did not say one way or another. Instead, Hofmann said, “…the Town and Sturgeon School Division engaged in proactive discussions in anticipation of the need for additional modular placements on the MPS site beyond the 2016-2017 school year. These arrangements will be finalized as part of the formal development permit process for the additional modulars once that commences.”
Hofmann explained the types of things the Town will consider when approving placement of the portable classrooms include: building site coverage, setbacks, adequate parking and other adequate pedestrian and vehicular traffic safety measures.
SSD’s School Board Trustee for Morinville, Misty Featherley, told the Morinville News the new public school (which has not yet been named) is still in its design phase and is, “moving along as it should.”
Dr. Michele Dick, SSD Superintendent, elaborated saying, “…we are expecting to go to tender in early summer. The drawings are being fleshed out and the interior and exterior concepts are really quite amazing. As we have been approved for solar panels, we are now exploring what that will mean for the school and how we will be able to use solar energy as a teaching tool. More to come on this exciting opportunity.”
The Town has zoned the land in which the school will sit as ‘municipal reserve’ land, but land ownership has not yet been transferred to the school division.
Meanwhile, the Province insists Morinville’s new public school is identified as a high priority and has been since 2014. Lindsay Harvey, a spokesperson with Alberta Education, told the Morinville News, addressing school needs in communities across Alberta has been on-going.
“Our government is currently taking part in the biggest build of schools in this province’s history. We opened more than 50 schools in 2016 and will be opening many more this year. The previous government did not build as many new schools as were needed by the province, so our government is working to fix the problem of aging schools that need to be modernized and building in communities where schools are desperately needed,” she said.
Harvey also noted, “to be clear, the delays to the new Morinville school are because of local site issues, not provincial priorities. As a government, we want to ensure the school planning process moves ahead smoothly, so students can benefit from state-of-the-art schools as quickly as possible.”
MPS provides public education to students in grades preschool through grade nine; according to SSD, there are no plans to add any additional grades moving forward.