Students at Annie L. Gaetz got to stay comfortable on Friday, thanks to the holding of pyjama day. They will get even more comfortable in their school in the coming years, thanks to provincial funding for a major modernization at the 1965-built school.
Red Deer MLAs Cal Dallas and Mary Anne Jablonski were at the Morrisroe school on Friday to announce funding for a project that will provide mechanical, electrical, interior and exterior upgrades for the building. While no dollar amount was announced, Red Deer Public School Division’s 2013 estimate for the work to be done was $5.6 million.
Division facilities director Darren Skrepnyk said the overall look of the school will be improved through the work, and mechanical and electrical upgrades will bring everything up to current code. Lighting improvements will be made as well.
“Certainly when we get this type of announcement it’s exciting because this means we can do everything we want to do to that building. Otherwise we’re trying to work throughout the district doing as much as we can on a smaller project basis,” said Skrepnyk.
He said tenders for the project could go out in the spring, and he estimated the work would take over a year. Classes will have to be moved around the school during the work period, but Skrepnyk said disruptions would be minimal.
The modernization project was the top capital priority for the division. School board chair Bev Manning said Dallas and Jablonski have paid attention to the division’s needs, which gives her hope that another announcement could come soon — for a new elementary school, likely in the city’s northeast.
“As I look at the needs throughout the province, I’m concerned about the deficit that we have in buildings and infrastructure, so I recognize the fact that we are not the only place in the province that has some significant pressures. But we are very hopeful,” said Manning.
The province’s stated plan for the next three years is to fund the construction of 50 new schools and the modernization of 70 others. At an event in Innisfail on Thursday, Education Minister Jeff Johnson said all of the projects will be announced by the end of February.
Johnson met with both Red Deer school boards on Thursday, and Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division board chair Guy Pelletier said the minister was told of the need for another Catholic high school in the city, with Notre Dame High School over capacity and reliant on more and more portable classrooms to fit everyone in. With another 30 or so projects to be announced by the province over the next month, Pelletier said he is confident his division will hear its name called soon.
“For our plan, as near as we can tell from the administrators at Alberta Education, everything looks favourable in terms of the application. The need is clear, the city has confirmed the land availability and the servicing and road access to it, so we’ve sort of done all we can do from our end,” said Pelletier.
The board has already chosen a name for a future Red Deer high school — St. Joseph High School — and the city has allocated space for the facility in Timberlands, northeast of the 67th Street and 30th Avenue intersection. The division has also put together a working group to formulate a design for the capital project and look into how it could incorporate other community elements into the facility.
The government also announced school projects for Athabasca, Bashaw and Calmar on Friday.