At the regularly scheduled board meeting of the Medicine Hat Public School Division on March 28, Secretary Treasurer Jerry Labossiere presented the three-year capital plan for the period 2024-27. The plan contains information on enrolment, capacity, utilization, deferred maintenance and development within the city.

“They call it a capital plan, I call it a wish list,” stated Labossiere, who was looking for the board to approve the plan so it could be submitted to the Ministry of Education.

If MHPSD receives capital funding from the province, the first priority would be building a new Hamptons Elementary School at the cost of $15 million.

“The reason we are looking for a new school there is our utilization rate in the south sector is 87%. That being George Davison at 72% and Wilson at 94%, the average between that is 87%. This is the largest growing sector of the city. We think we are going to run out of space at some point so that is why it is our number one request.”

The site for the new school is already fully landscaped and serviced and located about two kilometres south of Dr. Roy Wilson Learning Centre. If the new school is built, the capital plan has both Elm Street School and South View School closing the year it is scheduled to open in Sept. 2026. Both these schools have declined enrolment and closing them would save MHPSD deferred maintenance costs of $9 million.

George Davison is a K-6 school and students move schools Grade 7. Wilson is a K-9 school, thus already has an internal Grade 7 population. Many parents have chosen to eliminate their children transitioning schools in Grade 7 by enrolling them in Wilson at an earlier grade, even if they should be attending George Davison.

MHPSD administration will recommend grade configurations to the board once the new school is built. Hamptons Elementary will be a K-6 school with a base of 300 students and maximum capacity of 600 students.

Second priority in the capital plan is a modernization and addition at Ecole Connaught School with a cost of about $21 million and a completion date of Sept. 2027. Third priority is modernization and an addition to Alexandra Middle School, costing $20.5 million with a completion date of Sept. 2028.

The oldest section of the school at Connaught is a three-storey, 111-year-old building. Architecturally attractive with historical value, there are a many functional issues within the school. Ventilation and air conditioning are minimal and HVAC systems do not meet current codes and standards.

The newer section of the school is 70 years old and there are four levels between the two buildings with no elevators or ramps and limited accessibility. As Connaught has the only elementary French Immersion program in MHPSD, accessibility has been raised as a concern.

The motion was passed to accept the new capital plan with all in favour except trustee Deborah Forbes.

“My reason for opposing the motion is I oppose a new building in a small city where we have declining enrolment for two reasons. We have space, we can move people to spaces that we have available. Also, the environmental cost of new buildings is very high.”

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 30, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Medicine Hat News   Medicine Hat, Alberta

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