BY AMELIA NAISMITH
As design plans for Blackfalds’ new kindergarten to Grade 6 school are pushed by Alberta Education, the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) trustees are scrambling to update themselves and Blackfalds on the situation after a summer hiatus.
During the summer, superintendent Larry Jacobs and secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson were the only two WCPS staff involved with the project available to converse with architects and keep up-to-date with the school’s progression.
Subsequently, Jacobs and Henderson are the only WCPS staff to have seen two of the three new school templates available to Blackfalds.
The third hasn’t yet been viewed by anyone.
“The footprint (size and basic blueprint) is set but we can go in and modify walls and areas inside the building,” said Jacobs.
The school will have two wings, one for kindergarten to Grade 3 and the other for Grades 4 to 6, and with a central hub.
It also comes with six attached portables and the capacity to expand to 10.
Although the building is destined as an elementary school, Jacobs says previous to grade specific modifications, the basic template can accommodate any grade configuration.
“The architect wants to design the building very quickly,” said Jacobs. “That’s why Joe and I, were (between) a rock and a hard place over the summer.”
“Timelines are very short,” confirmed Henderson. Alberta Education wants finalized decisions from trustees within the following weeks.
The trustees are going to have to use student and municipal censuses to predict the number of students per grade who would attend the school in two years’ time, once it’s completed.
The portables have to be placed on the end of each wing and grade populations determine their location.
More kindergarten to Grade 3 students are expected and Jacobs feels four portables should be placed on that wing.
When that surplus of students graduates to the next wing, the additional portables can be added to the school to accommodate their transfer.
Henderson says the school’s design should be finalized by November and the tendering process is to start in January.
“I’m bothered by what I’m hearing,” said trustee Bob Huff.
He wanted to know if timelines and deadlines could be pushed back for the sake of the school board and to get community input.
However, if they try to extend the timeline the school could be taken away.
“They’ll just move it along to some other school division,” said board chair Trudy Bratland.
“If we’re so much under pressure I think the board needs to be proactive and say, ‘Hey, this affects us’,” Huff added.
Under his influence, the board decided a media release should be crafted and sent to the Town of Blackfalds administration, citizens and MLA Rod Fox.
Because of the lack of communication between the ministry and the Town of Blackfalds, and appropriate timelines that would allow for the communication, Huff says WCPS needs to be the one to let Blackfalds know what’s happening.
“If not we’re going to get an egg on our face again.”
Due to lacking communication Bratland says “horror stories” came out of the construction process of a Penhold school.
“It’s frustrating when you’ve been told you have an opportunity for input then have two minutes to decide,” said Henderson.
The trustees’ discussion regarding the school wasn’t completely negative.
“The schools we’ve seen are new schools and they’re working very well. From a government standpoint, they’re working very well,” said Henderson.