Town and Division meet on school issue

by Lucie Roy

Morinville Town Council and Sturgeon School Division (SSD) Board members held a joint meeting in Morinville Council Chambers Feb. 23. A handful of Morinville Public School parents attended to listen to the conversations taking place about the future of a promised 5-9 middle school for the community.

The next step for both SSD and the Town is to wait for the response from a meeting between the Deputy Ministers of Education, Infrastructure and Transportation regarding the suitability of the current school site located behind the Ray McDonald Sports Center. Once it is received, both the Town and SSD will talk about the entire process.

At issue is whether access will be on 104 Street, 107 Street or whether the site is suitable for a school at all. There is concern fronting the school on 107 Street would trigger a roundabout at the Shell intersection, which is estimated to cost $4 million plus the cost of buying right-of-way on the four properties at the intersection.

“Once the information is gathered from Alberta Transportation about 107 Street and potential roundabout, and perhaps widening of another road (107) and buying out the businesses, we will get a very good idea of the cost,” said Councillor Gord Putnam during the meeting. Putnam added administration would do what they can to get an answer back as quick as possible.

Recap of Minister’s Meeting

In recapping the Feb. 17 meeting with Education Minister David Eggen, SSD Chair Tracy Nowak said the Minister was very clear that the new school must get built as quickly as possible and must be in the right place. “So I thought it was very good and assuring that, despite stumbling blocks and delays, the funding is not to be pulled,” Nowak said.

Mayor Lisa Holmes said one of the takeaways from the meeting was that many of the triggers on the current school site deal with other departments. “To bring these other departments to deal with these questions I think was progress and outlining what will happen because we did not have Alberta Transportation at the table to continue discussions,” the mayor said. “The decisions are out of our hands.”

Currently Designated Site

The Minister has committed to bringing in the Administrative side to sit down and look at the concerns the school division and their design team have with the site. SSD Superintendent Dr. Michele Dick and the Board had several conversations with their Education Manager in capital planning. Dick said the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education and Assistant Deputy Minister of Infrastructure would meet with her and the Minister Feb. 25 to have further discussions about the next steps and moving forward.

Morinville Public School Site

Dr. Dick said she has already started a Student Accommodations Study to understand where students might be placed for the 2017-2018 school year. The study is to be presented to the Board for their consideration and direction by the end of June to allow adequate time to have some consultations with parents. Dick said she is feeling “really good” about the school year 2016-2017; it is the school year 2017-2018 that is a concern.

Morinville’s Interim CAO Andy Isbister said 2017-2018 school year from his recollection from the Minister was that the Minister will make sure there are 12 modulars available for SSD somewhere in Morinville. “We will make sure we will have a site available for them,” Isbister said. “I will ensure we will find a suitable site to locate 10-12 portables so that kids are not bussed out of Morinville. We will work with SSD and Administration over the next one or two months to ensure that a site is suitable to place those twelve portables so that when you get to June 30 and [are] looking at your Accommodation plan for September 1, 2017, that you know that all arrangements are in place.”

Councillor Stephen Dafoe, addressing parental concerns that temporary modulars could lead to being a permanent school, emphasized that the modulars were temporary, and reiterated Minister Eggen’s vow that funding was still there for the middle school and that it would be built. “There will be a school,” Dafoe said.

A meeting has been scheduled for April 6 at 4 p.m. to be hosted by SSD. The consensus among Council and the SSD Board was to hold all future joint meetings in front of the public.

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