by Lucie Roy
An information session was held in the Morinville Public School gym Tuesday night with Mayor, Council, staff members, Sturgeon School Division Board trustees and roughly 12 parents in attendance. The agenda was regarding a request for a new Morinville Public School site and covered the school site allocation process from the Town, the new school planning and design Phase 1 from Sturgeon School Division and the current status of the Sturgeon School Division site identification needs.
More information will be covered at the June 23 Morinville Town Council meeting.
The one-hour meeting provided two opposing views – build it now or look into the long term for the best decisions affecting the future of the school, students, community and growth. Parental concerns included being short sighted in fast decision making.
One thing that was evident from the session is that the Morinville Public High School would not be built in 2017 as this would require shovels in the ground this summer.
The four potential sites discussed for the school were South Glens, Westwinds (by No Frills), the current arena and Sturgeon School Division lands, and on the new recreation facility lands east of town.
The discussion evolved around the different schools, different size allocation and parking required.
Sturgeon School Division Chair Terry Jewell emphasized the requirement for a site allocation now as he said, “no site, no dollars” in reference to the $750,000 awarded by the Government of Alberta for the planning and design of a new 1000 student Grade 5-9 school. The ultimate plan is to have a school that would have the capacity to accommodate Grades 5-12 as enrollment warrants. The Sturgeon School Division cannot access the promised funds nor initiate the planning and design until the Town identifies an appropriate and serviced site.
The Division is currently under pressure to obtain a site or lose their current top-five standing for a new school and go back to the end of the waiting list. The concern is the three- to four-year waiting period before they can build a new school, and not going to the bottom of the list.
The current public school just received six modulars and will have another five or six before the school is built. Discussions took place as to bussing the students to Namao, Camilla, and Sturgeon Composite High School as alternatives should a new facility not be built by the time the modulars reach capacity.
Old Arena / SSD lands site
The school would have to be built around the arena, which would still be in use until the new rec facility is built. The school would share the existing green space for soccer and other school sports programs.
Although Council has received an estimate of $2 million to demolish the arena and curling rink, they have not made a decision on demolishing all or part of the facility.
Future school sites are indicated in the South Glens Area Structure Plan (ASP); however, no activity is expected there for several years as the developer is not ready to move into future phases.
Located in the No Frills area of town, there is no development activity expected for several years in the land identified for a school site, but Mayor Holmes told parents the land would not be large enough to accommodate a junior-senior high school.
New Multi-Plex/Recreation Centre area
The planning for the proposed centre is still in the early stages. Timelines and information currently available do not indicate if the school division can have some land to build a school that is timely enough for their requirements. Some parents felt this location would be ideal for the students as they would have many recreational opportunities open to them; sports academy, swimming teams and other options. The proximity is ideal for two high schools within a short distance for sports and events competitions.
Having modulars added to the Sturgeon School Division Office Building while they wait for a school site was suggested by a parent in attendance. Selling the land SSD is sitting on and relocating their Division office with the new school at the new Muti-Plex/Recreation Centre was also suggested.
The decisions made now affect future generations. The previous Council’s long term planning was not there. Concerns were expressed that even though there was no school built in Morinville since 1994, there were no long-term plans in place, despite previous Councils knowing more schools would be needed as Morinville grew and knew their responsibilities.
Left to make the decision now are the current Council and School Boards.
Morinville’s Director of Planning and Development Greg Hofmann explained the Area Structure Plan (ASP) and how much reserve land developers are obligated to contribute.
“There are three kinds of reserve: Municipal Reserve (MR), School Reserve (SR) and Municipal School Reserve (MSR),” Hoffman explained, adding he did not think there are any MSR in Morinville that is available. “There is school reserve in three of the four schools and MR is the vast majority of public land that has been created in the Town of Morinville. That is your parks. So there hasn’t been any reserve land at SR for a very long time to the best of his knowledge.”
Hofmann said they should have plans moving forward for the next round of schools, so the current situation does not happen again. ”We can make sure we are not in this position again,” he said. “At the first opportunity we are looking at reviewing plans and make sure next stages of development include those sites.”
Council is planning a similar meeting with Greater St. Albert parents and board in the future. No date was announced for that meeting.