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Wednesday, 22 June 2011 17:00

Five people give input for features in Chinook's new school

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By Chris Jaster —  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Only five people attended the Chinook School Division’s open consultation June 20 on what features should be included in its new school.

Despite having a small turnout from the community, AODBT’s architects walked away from the Swift Current Comprehensive High School’s cafeteria with a lot of ideas.

Charles Olfert and Mitch Strocen, the architects who led the discussions at the two tables during the consultation, left the meeting with ideas on the different kinds of playgrounds needed for the pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 facility.

There were also discussions on trees blocking the north, northwest winds on the playgrounds as well as the loading zones for buses and parents driving their children to school, long walking paths and outdoor learning space.

The people who attended the meeting also expressed their interest in making sure there is a lot of natural light in the school, open learning spaces and hallways, windows that open and spaces for assemblies and musical performances.

An indoor playground and how much technology would be in the school — including whether computer labs are needed or just stations to plug in laptops or tablets are needed — were also discussed.

Lisa Fehr, whose children are just starting their education, was glad she came to the consultation and felt the architects listened and valued her opinions.

“It’s nice to have your opinion heard and I don’t think that would happen if I hadn’t come out,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of negative comments about the new (facility) — comments on Facebook and other social media — but I don’t think they’re willing to be informed and come out and get that information and have their opinion put out there. There’s a lot of nay-sayers, but if they would have come (Monday), maybe their opinions could have been changed.”

AODBT, Chinook’s primary architectural consultant for the new school, has a lot of experience designing schools. Some of the schools are part of integrated facilities. Olfert, however, said he
didn’t walk into the first consultation with any preconceptions of what to include.

He made a presentation with Strocen before the discussions started to give the people who attended the meeting some ideas of what they might like to see in the school. Olfert, however, knows that what works for one community may not work for another, which is why he took the consultation process so seriously.

Olfert also enjoyed the small groups as he felt everyone who attended was able to express their opinions instead of hearing from a few people in bigger groups.

“With a smaller group, you actually have every individual making a point, so we had really good participation. It was a small group, but we had really good participation and good ideas.”

Although the discussions were good, and lasted for well over an hour, Cassandra Appelgren, a school board trustee for the City of Swift Current, still wishes more people attended the meeting.

“I would have liked to see more people come, give some ideas and voice their opinion for what they’d like to see in the new school and to tell us what would work best for the kids,” she said.

Olfert said there will be many more consultations over the next four to five months. Those consultations will be with superintendents, teachers and the division’s steering committee, which includes all three Swift Current board members.

In July and August, consultations will expand to include the vision for the entire integrated facility, including the Cypress Health Region’s and City’s portions of the facility.

AODBT will then approach the students in September to find out what they would like to have
included in the new school.

“The student consultations are often quite interesting,” said Olfert. “We want to have a kit for the teachers to take into the classrooms and then they can work in the school design as part of their educational programming and send one or two students to a meeting where they can present those ideas. Then the ideas can trickle back to the community in other ways.

“This meeting was just one of many, many ways of consulting with the community.”

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