Safety, esthetics raise questions in new school proposals

Proposals for two new elementary schools in northeast Red Deer prompted questions about aesthetics and student safety at the city’s municipal planning commission meeting on Wednesday.

Proposals for two new elementary schools in northeast Red Deer prompted questions about aesthetics and student safety at the city’s municipal planning commission meeting on Wednesday.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and Red Deer Public Schools are each seeking to develop a kindergarten to Grade 5 school: a 500-student facility in the Clearview Ridge subdivision in the case of the Catholic division, and a 600-student school in the Timberlands subdivision for the public division.

The province announced funding for the schools, which are to be constructed and maintained as P3 (public-private partnership) projects, last May.

The Catholic school would measure 34,756 square feet and include 10 classrooms and two modular units, with provisions for up to eight additional modulars. Slated to be called Father Henri Vosin School, it would be located at 60 Clearview Dr.

The public school would contain 12 classrooms and eight modulars, with four additional modulars a possibility in the future. Covering 47,286 square feet, the 300 Timothy Dr. school would also house a Red Deer Public Library branch.

Peter Holloway and Jim Marke, both citizen representatives on the commission, said they found it difficult to assess the appearance of the proposed schools from the materials provided.

Darryl Rewniak of Edmonton’s ACI Architecture Inc. elaborated on the plans, which call for the use of pre-finished metal panels, corrugated metal galvanized cladding, masonry block accents and large windows around the school entrances.

The designs are similar to those of schools being developed in other communities, he said, and reflect the standards mandated by Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Education.

The inclusion of modular classrooms is also mandated by the province, said Rewniak, explaining that this provides flexibility as student populations rise and fall.

Larry Thomsen, another citizen representative on the commission, expressed concerns about the student dropoff areas at both schools.

In the case of the Catholic school, he questioned the safety of allowing vehicles to enter this area from both directions off Clearview Drive. Northbound drivers would have to turn left across traffic, or might be tempted to drop their passengers off on the opposite side of the street.

At the public school, noted Thomsen, the eventual dropoff area would be on the south side of Timothy Drive — across the street from the school.

“We’re creating a situation that’s going to have the majority of students dashing across the street to get to their classrooms. And that’s not safe; it’s not prudent.”

Rewniak said his firm and the school boards went to “very great lengths” to ensure pedestrian safety — resulting in such features as separate bus and vehicle dropoff zones. In the case of the Timberlands school, he added, the location of the dropoff zone was dictated by the city’s Engineering Department.

The commission voted to table both applications for up to one month so that ACI Architecture can produce more detailed design materials, and for alternate plans for the student dropoff areas to be considered.

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