Innisfail’s “temporary” school to be closed after two decades

Students to be moved to John Wilson Elementary after Chinook Centre School closes in June.

Kurt Sacher, superintendent of Chinook’s Edge School District

After 21 years, some Innisfail elementary students will finally leave their ‘temporary’ school to be reintegrated this fall into a fully renovated John Wilson Elementary.

No one ever thought it would take so long to return these kindergarten to Grade 4 classes from Chinook’s Centre School back to John Wilson, said Sandy Bexon, communications officer for the Chinook’s Edge School District.

“We had a series of strange events… with growth and space pressures, and then a huge renovation.”

The temporary Chinook Centre School was created in 1996 to help alleviate overcrowding at John Wilson Elementary. More than two decades later, 88 students are still being taught by five teachers, with administrative support staff and assistants at the facility, adjacent to the district’s administrative office.

Although Chinook’s Edge superintendent Kurt Sacher only started in his job seven years ago, his understanding is that learning spaces couldn’t be expanded at John Wilson until a massive renovation was done on building systems, including electrical and air flow.

The school reno, therefore, had to be done in several stages as money came in from the provincial government.

Meanwhile, there was also a rejigging of grades as Innisfail Middle School was built, said Bexon. Now the three schools — John Wilson, Innisfail Middle School and Innisfail High school — are connected into a single “campus.”

With John Wilson now newly expanded and ready for more students, trustees voted to close Chinook Centre School in June. But after so many years, it will be a bittersweet farewell, admitted Sacher.

He noted some people are eagerly anticipating the move to a modernized school, while others are cautious and have many questions. Some parents remain upset that their kids will be transferred from a small school to a much larger one. In September, John Wilson will have almost 500 students.

But Sacher believes the transition will be made easier since teachers from Chinook Centre are also transferring to the larger school with their students. Their “team teaching” approach that worked so well will be continued at John Wilson, with teachers overseeing ‘learning pods’ of students.

Sacher said “there are so many great strengths with John Wilson” that he’s confident the move will be beneficial.

As to what happens to the Chinook Centre space once the temporary school is closed, he said it will be used to consolidate administrative services, saving the district $200,000 to $300,000 annually.

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