Fort Macleod council was asked last week to help find ways to pay for an expanded gymnasium at W.A. Day school.
That request came May 26 at the end of a presentation on the modernization of two Fort Macleod schools.
School board chair Martha Ratcliffe, trustee Lori Hodges, associate superintendent of business services Jeff Perry and facilities manager Mike Mahaffy were at the May 26 council meeting.
“It’s an exciting time,” Perry said. “We’re extremely excited about the potential of having two new schools in this community.”
On Jan. 27 the provincial government announced it would make an estimated $18-million available to modernize F.P. Walshe and W.A. Day schools.
When that work is done, G.R. Davis school will be considered surplus and will close, due to school enrollment.
Since that announcement discussions have been held with the community, staff and students.
Ferrari Westwood was hired as architect, Ward Brothers was hired as project manager and design drawings were completed.
The work is to be done in time for the 2016 school year.
“It’s a tight time line that the minister has given to us,” Perry said.
As soon as school is out in June asbestos removal will begin at F.P. Walshe and W.A. day schools.
“That is one of the first steps that has to occur for us to move forward,” Perry said.
Schematic designs have gone to Alberta infrastructure for its approval.
“Once that approval has been received we’ll begin a detailed design,” Perry said.
Perry told council Grade 1-5 students will spend the next two years in the former Lethbridge College satellite campus building on 26th Street.
Grade 6-12 students, along with preschool and Kindergarten classes, will be housed at G.R. Davis school.
Perry also told council about a partnership between Fort Macleod Kids First Family Centre and Livingstone Range School Division.
Kids First wants to build a $2-million addition on W.A. Day school to house its programs, including preschool.
“We think that’s a very promising partnership,” Perry said.
Alberta Education will not fund the addition, so Kids First will be charged with raising the necessary cash.
Kids First will attend the June 10 school board meeting to discuss its fund-raising plans.
Perry said Livingstone Range has also been approached by Fort Macleod residents to build the W.A. Day school gym large enough to accommodate high school sports.
“There’s huge benefits to both the school and community with this type of partnership,” Perry said, citing as an example the ability to host provincial sports championships.
Perry explained Alberta infrastructure will only fund a 430 square meter gym.
“It will meet the needs of the programming that is required in a Kindergarten to Grade 5 school,” Perry said.
Fort Macleod residents have proposed building a 550 square metre gymnasium to accommodate a full size court and small set of bleachers.
Building that larger gym will cost an additional $637,000.
“We know that there is benefit for this,” Perry said.
Livingstone Range does not have the money to pay for the larger gym.
“We know this is a once in a 40- to 50-year opportunity for Fort Macleod to do this,” Perry said.
Perry said the school board is hopeful town council can provide the needed funding or support other efforts to raise the money.
Coun. Mike Collar wondered if the school division had considered selling corporate sponsorship of the gym.
Perry said that has not been discussed.
Coun. Gord Wolstenholme asked if the school board had approached the MD of Willow Creek.
“We could do that,” Perry replied.
Mayor Rene Gendre wondered about the Town of Fort Macleod or school division lending the money for the larger gym and being reimbursed.
Perry said that is not an option based on an experience in another jurisdiction where the community stopped fund-raising after the gym was built.
“If we don’t get support from the community, we will build a 430 square metre gym,” Perry said.
A decision must be made soon, possibly by June 10, so design work is not slowed.
“Once it’s constructed there’s no going back,” Perry said. “The board felt it was important to come and talk to you.”