By Nikki Jamieson
With the building getting an overhaul, a local elementary school is seeking the Municipal District of Taber’s help in fixing up the school grounds.
During their regular Jan. 23 meeting, the Municipal District of Taber received a delegation from St. Patrick’s Elementary School, seeking help on a few extra projects for the school’s modernization. St. Pat’s is currently in the midst of an Alberta Infrastructure (AI) project modernization, with the construction portion of the project expected to start in July 2017.
The school is about 54 years old, and has had three add-ons over the years, and houses 186 students and 25 staff members. In the modernization, the school’s layout will be reconfigured so that the administration will be at the front of the school and gains an extra 12 feet outside of the current school footprint, gathering spaces have been added, floating walls between a few classrooms and the outside of the building will get a facelift. The cost of the modernization is expected to be about $6 million.
“We have a new school plan within the same footprint. I wanted to mention to you guys, that it is a modernization. It isn’t a break down rebuild,” said Michelle Nevil, principal at St. Pat’s, speaking on behalf of the delegation. “We’re just trying to get the biggest bang for our buck, so we’re trying to get a collaborative environment.”
However, while the modernization is underway, the delegation was hoping that the M.D. would be able to provide help with some additional projects outside of the building. Specifically, they are looking for help paving the parking lot south of the school where the pre-k class is located, getting a dirt pile for the back of the school for kids to play on and hauling away the trees at the front of the school.
“This is where the buck ends; in the $6 million project, this is where it ends. What’s becoming very well evident to myself and our school council, is that we’re going to have a lot to do on the outside and the region around the school that there is going to be no money for,” said Nevil, adding that AI was willing to take down the trees, but not clean up afterwards.
“They will go in, knock them down, but then it’s up to myself to ensure it’s all cleaned up.”
The trees in question are the four big ones in front of the school. Although they thought about selling the downed trees as firewood in a fundraiser, since construction starts in the middle of summer, it’s not feasible. Council was surprised to hear that AI would take the trees down, but just leave the trees where they landed.
“I thought you guys had to worry about teaching kids, I didn’t realize you had to worry about trees,” said Dwight Tolton, M.D. councillor.
Council also asked if sand would be better than dirt, as it wouldn’t get muddy or stick to clothes as easy. Nevil said they would be open to it.
Jeremy Wickson, director of public works for the M.D., when asked, replied to council that he would have to test the current parking lot to see if it already had a good base to put asphalt on, although he suspects they would need to add to it.
“If you’re going to put an asphalt layer down there, I mean if it’s parking, a parking lot, it’s probably okay,” said Wickson. “Buses and stuff turning around, I’d feel a little bit different. I’d have to evaluate it a bit, but it might be suitable.”
Reeve Brian Brewin told the delegation that he didn’t see a problem giving them a hand, as they have helped other schools out in the past. They would like to see how much would need to be done before they moved ahead though.
“We’ll have to have a sit down and finalize what the request would be,” said Brewin. “Certainly, if it’s gravel or sand or pavement, a little bit of a better idea.”
Coun. Bob Wallace wonder how much work the M.D. can do on the school if it is within town limits. All the work that they wanted done appears to be on school property, but they need to confirm it. There were also liability issues to consider.
Both groups agreed to come back and discuss what needs to be done at a later date, with more information on the scope of work.
After the delegation left, council passed a motion to form a committee — consisting of Wickson and councillors Tom Machacek and Ben Elfring — to work with St. Pat’s and present ideas on how to move forward with the projects to council.