Letter: Town responds to recent comments on junior high

Recently there has been information provided to the community on the status of the new Morinville Public Junior High School project that did not come from the Town of Morinville or Sturgeon School Division (SSD). The Town of Morinville Council wants to take this opportunity to demonstrate the factual inaccuracies within that information:

• A timeline of events compiled by Council shows several meetings between the Town and SSD as well as communication between the Town and the Government of Alberta in regards to the school site since November 2014. This timeline is available on the Town of Morinville’s website at www.morinville.ca. 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. Mayor Holmes and the Town CAO had a meeting March 9, 2015, with the Minister of Education who said that a potential partnership with the recreation centre was still a possibility their department would be willing to explore.

• No Morinville Town Council representatives attended the Value Scoping Workshops held in November, so statements that the Town attended are inaccurate. It always has been the legal responsibility of the Town to provide a serviced school site to the school division once a new school project has been announced.

• Sturgeon School Division shared a letter with the Town on June 12, 2015, that stated that the Government of Alberta needed the Division to have an identified school site by June 26, 2015. A similar letter was sent to Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division. On June 16, the Town held an information session with parents at MPS to discuss the school site options available and the pros/cons of each. According to the Minister of Education at a meeting held on March 9, 2015, only 17 of the 77 previously announced school projects had designated school sites.

• Council passed a bylaw on June 23, 2015, allocating the current arena site to Sturgeon School Division. This was after several requests from Sturgeon School Division to do so. Several Council members discussed the concerns that they had about the lack of information on the restrictions and issues that the site had. It was stated publicly by several Council members that this was not the preferred site that they would like to see the new school built on, but it was the only one that met the timelines that the Government of Alberta and Sturgeon School Division had set out.

• It is common practice for a municipality to transfer the title of land in the amount needed for the “footprint” of the building. The joint use agreements will allow the Town to retain ownership of the adjacent sports fields with allowances for use by the school during school hours and town sports/activities after hours. The 15 to 20 acres of land that are required includes the sports fields and parking lot(s). The Town has granted access to the current arena parking lot for overflow school parking and has also offered joint use agreements for the splash park, playground structure and outdoor rink.

• According to a letter from Sturgeon School Division Chair Tracy Nowak to Town Council dated October 19, 2015, the architect presented 10 different designs to the Design Team (which the Town is not a part of) at an October 7 meeting and several designs were dismissed outright by the Design Team themselves. Five designs were presented to Town Council to view at a meeting October 27, none of which were refused, as it is not the responsibility of Town Council Members to plan the details of the school design. An alternative design was presented in November by email from the Town’s Director of Planning and Development and it was rejected by the architect and Sturgeon School Division.

• Alberta Education determined that the restrictions on the site were too numerous to continue the design work at this time. It was Sturgeon School Division’s Board that determined the site was unsuitable. The Town of Morinville has not received official notice from Alberta Education that a new school site is required. No one has mentioned that the land was unsafe at any time.

• According to the timeline of events, Town Council has met five times with Sturgeon School Division’s Board and written several letters of support for both the Division and the project. As early as 2011, two current members of Morinville’s Town Council supported a resolution asking for a stakeholder meeting to discuss the future of public education in the community.

Morinville Town Council supports both of our School Divisions in any way that we can to help them provide Educational Services in our community and appreciates the collaborative and open relationship that we have with each of their Board of Trustees. We consider both of the new school projects that have been announced for Morinville to be priorities for our community and reaffirm our position to provide any information or help that is needed to move these projects forward in a timely way.

If any member of the public has any questions in regards to the Town’s participation in this project, please feel free to contact myself or another member of Council at any time. We can be collectively reached by email at allcouncil@morinville.ca.

Lisa Holmes
Mayor, Town of Morinville

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