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Friday, 31 March 2017 08:00

New Tilley School becomes the priority for Grasslands School Division

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Due to emergent issues at Tilley School, trustees with Grasslands Public Schools agreed to make the facility number one on the division’s most recent capital wishlist to be submitted to the Alberta government by April 1.

Trustees discussed and approved the capital plan for 2018-2021 at the March 13 regular meeting.
“It is turning into a health and safety issue,” said Rhian Schroeder, associate superintendent, business services for Grasslands, about Tilley School in a phone interview March 16.
Significant issues developed in the past year at the school, specifically in the 1947 portion of the building. Due to a high water table and original concrete in the basement area, mold was discovered and needed to be remediated.
“That is going to continue to be an issue,” said Schroeder about the age of that section of the school.
A structural engineer has looked into the facility, there has been a facility audit completed and the school is oversized based on enrolment projections. Paying to heat and light space in a facility that isn’t being used ends up costing the school division money.
Three options are available to the school division: building a replacement school; demolishing the 1947 section and adding on a smaller addition; or simply removing the floor slab in the basement of the oldest section and remediating mold issues.
“The modernization costs are way more than 75 per cent of (the costs of) building a new school,” said Schroeder.
In the capital plan, trustees agreed to the recommendation to build a replacement school in Tilley that would be right-sized and barrier free.
This would be the least disruptive to the students as a new facility could be built on the same site and once completed students move into it, so the old building can be demolished. Total estimated costs for a new school build are just under $10 million.
The second priority on the capital plan is a joint project that would see a new co-located high school facility built with Medicine Hat College (MHC) at the Brooks Campus location and the existing Brooks Junior High School (BJHS) students moved into the existing Brooks Composite High School building.
Division officials decided to list this initiative as one project this year, as in last year’s capital plan it was listed as two separate projects.
“Brooks Junior High School is a complex, not very well designed old building,” says Schroeder. “There is no congregation space, narrow hallways and the mechanical systems are complex and not in great condition.”
A lot of Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal (IMR) funding is going to need to be spent on BJHS in the next decade, and division officials don’t believe that is money well spent.
With the option of building a co-located facility in partnership with MHC, it creates an opportunity to incorporate wrap around services for students and the community.
A committee has been formed with members from the school division, MHC, City of Brooks, County of Newell, Eastern Irrigation District, Chamber of Commerce, SPEC Association of Brooks and other non-profit agencies for the purpose of exploring the concept.
“There’s not a real set plan as we’re still looking at different options,” adds Schroeder.
With the high school still in good condition with no major work expected, it would make an excellent facility for the junior-high program in Brooks, including CTS space that would be more than adequate.
“The recommendation is to continue to work towards a solution of co-locating the high school,” says Schroeder “If it doesn’t move forward at a pace we’re comfortable with ... at some point we’ll have to make a decision (about feasibility). We do have some time.”
Third on the Capital Plan is Griffin Park School. It has sat in various positions on a capital plan for a number of years, but its condition means it shows well.
Many of the Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6 school’s issues are items that aren’t visible such as electrical and mechanical systems that are reaching the end of their life expectancies as is the roof. No major renovations have been done to the building since it was build in 1979, with the exception of the addition of portables in 2006 and 2009.
Absent from the capital plan is a new CTS trailer which had sat in the number one position last year.
Fourteen years ago, the trailer was cutting edge and the first of its kind, even garnering a Premiers’ award for Grasslands.
The CTS trailer spends one semester at Bassano School, and a semester at Duchess School, where the Rosemary students travel to so they can make use of it. Then throughout the school year, it will make short trips to Alcoma, Tilley and Rolling Hills Schools so junior-high students can get some time with CTS disciplines.
CTS trailers now cost about $1 million.
“We are exploring other ways to get that done,” said Schroeder. “We didn’t want what is a relatively small project, compared to a school modernization, to hold up everything else. We’re still pursuing getting a new trailer built, but pursuing other options for it.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor