Ponoka high school gets $11-million modernization

An $11-million modernization project at Ponoka Composite High School is underway.

An $11-million modernization project at Ponoka Composite High School is underway.

A third of the school has been blocked off to students to renovate classrooms, create a resource centre, put in new administration offices and place computers throughout.

The improvements will also include the Learning Centre concept, which will be an open area that offers a more flexible learning space.

“The bottom line is kids learn very differently today than they did even 10 or 20 or 30 years ago,” said Ponoka Composite principal Ian Rawlinson.

“The skills that kids need when they graduate from high school are ones that include the ability to work in a team, the ability to collaborate, the ability to learn on their own and be self-directed.”

He said in the layout in a traditional high school, it can be challenging for students to explore teamwork and collaborative skills, which are what is needed in today’s world.

Ponoka Composite High School was built in the 1960s and so many of the classrooms only have one electrical plug, which can be a challenge in today’s technology-driven educational environment.

As part of the work, which will take place over the next two years, mechanical and heating components will also be replaced.

Ponoka Composite has seen substantial growth in recent years, with more than 600 students attending this year, up from 530 in the 2009-2010 school year and 450 in 2008-2009.

“We have seen significant growth the past two years, which has been great for our school,” said Rawlinson, who attributes the growth to things like the school’s rodeo program.

The next stage of the $11-million project will include creating a new science park, science classrooms and science labs, as well as a common area for the students.

The science park idea blends all of the forms of science, from biology to chemistry, into one area. Rawlinson said they hope to introduce computers and interactive walls into this area as well.

“Our philosophy is that kids need access to technology when they need it and the days of picking up the class to go to the computer lab, those days are long over,” Rawlinson said.

The work is being completed by Edmonton-based Graham Construction, with Red Deer-based Group2 Architecture Engineering doing the plans.

The third phase of the project will include the Career and Technology Studies area, new fine arts area, theatre and gym, but it hasn’t yet been funded by the province. Rawlinson said work on this part of the school expected to cost from $5 million to $7 million.

Rawlinson said the cost for renovations is substantially less than was initially expected.

He said when they first looked at the modernization, it looked like it would cost $28 million to complete and now the entire project is expected to cost half of that amount.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com