Last fall the Grasslands School Division held community meetings to talk about grade configuration in the public schools in the city. After meeting with parents and staff it was decided to make Griffin Park School, Eastbrook Elementary School and the new school Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools. Currently Griffin Park and Eastbrook are Grades 2-6 schools and Central School is Kindergarten to Grade 1. Once the new school is opened, Central School will be given to the Catholic board.
“The schools will all be Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools,” says Rhian Schroeder, secretary-treasurer for the Grasslands School Division.
“We will have more community schools all in different areas of the city.”
Parents’ feedback included that they would like to see their children remain in the same school for a consecutive number of years as well as be able to walk to school as opposed to having to ride a bus.
The newest school isn’t slated to be open until the 2014-15 school year. At that time, Grasslands officials are expecting it to be close to full. The school division saw an increase of seven per cent in student enrolment this year.
“Central School has more than 400 kids in there now, and the new school is expected to (house) 450,” says Schroeder.
The division has had a lot of input into the design of the new school and a number of meetings with the architects involved. The plans are based on a core building and then there are a number of modulars added on to it based on space requirements.
The modulars don’t look like modulars and instead look like a part of the school.
“They have a core design to start with and then we tweak and move (areas) around based on the educational needs of the community,” says Schroeder.
In the Brooks school, the division has created some rooms with moveable walls so there can be team teaching and the building will be LEED certified and energy efficient.
“It’s a very open concept and there are big open gathering spaces in the school which is nice,” adds Schroeder. “We’re really excited to get going.”
Now the division has had its input into the design, they sit back and watch the building take shape.
This is the third time the Province has built schools using a P3 partnership. Tracy Larsen, a communications spokesperson with Alberta Infrastructure, says the government looks at how it can deliver a new school the most efficiently, and in some cases that means a P3. Schools built this way are often built up to two years sooner and there is savings to Alberta taxpayers.
“The public is not going to see anything different. It looks like any other school,” says Larsen.
The biggest difference with a P3 school is that a contract exists with a company to maintain the school in good condition for 30 years. After that time, the building is handed back to the school division and must still be in good condition.
Because the company building the school will also be building 11 others, there are savings in economies of scale. The company will purchase building materials in bulk and because they are responsible for maintenance of the building for the next 30 years, will likely choose to use higher quality materials.
“The school division is involved in the whole process,” adds Larsen. “We work with them on design and make sure it fits within the site that has been chosen.”
All 12 schools are to be operational by September 2014, but the contractor chooses the construction schedule and when and where construction takes place.
These new schools are part of a larger educational plan unveiled in May 2010 that included 35 school projects.
Some were new builds while others are modernizations. The cost for the contract is $288.78 million.