Update, Nov. 1, 6:45 p.m.: Minister Prasad Panda noted the project is a top priority and that for most Kindergarten to Grade 9 schools cost between $20 to $50 million to build.
Morrin School will be having a new building in the near future after the government of Alberta announced Friday, Nov. 1 that there will be full funding towards this project.
For Morrin Principal Don Yavis, this is a dream come true.
“We are really excited about the new school and we can’t wait for them to get started,” said Yavis. “I know my students here are extremely excited about having a brand new gymnasium with a high roof.”
“We’re excited to get the news and you know with today’s economy and the cutbacks and everything that is going on, it is good to see that Alberta Infrastructure is finding a way to make our schools better for our kids,” said Yavis.
Seeing rural communities get priority was a positive thing for the principal.
“I think it’s good to see that the government understands that these older schools in smaller areas are in need of repair and that they’ve always tried to fix them up and put bandaids on them but it’s good to see that they are willing to make life better for the kids in rural communities,” he said.
Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner is in agreeance, grateful for the Minister’s support and their understanding of rural needs and necessities.
“When we are in a period of fiscal restraint to get projects like this funded really means a lot, especially in this part of the world,” said Horner.
Yavis informed the ECA Review that employees and engineers from Alberta Infrastructure were at the school a few times to inspect the building.
There have been a few different structural concerns surrounding the school including its foundation.
“This has been ongoing for a few years as far as school issues,” said Yavis.
The Prairie Land Regional Division (PLRD) School Board put forth an outline and three-year capital plan for potentially having a new school in Morrin as it was an important facility to the board.
This plan includes aspects like the school’s impact on the health and safety of students, the overall condition of the building and enrolment trends.
“They’ve done a good job outlining the need and the why,” said Horner.
“Now that we have a government with more rural representation throughout the province, I think there is a desire to build education infrastructure that is not just in major centres and look to instead of closing down Morrin and saying ‘Well we will give a little bit more money to Delia or Drumheller and bus the kids’, I think we have a caucus that respects the footprint and wants those same opportunities for their kids in their local areas.”
The Budget 2019 capital plan supports 15 new schools, including brand new high schools in Calgary, Edmonton, Leduc, Blackfalds and Langdon.
Six schools are slated for replacement and four will receive modernization or additions.
Together, the 25 projects will receive $397 million.
Budget 2019 also includes $1.4 billion over four years to continue work on previously announced school projects across Alberta, which includes $123 million for about 250 new modular classrooms to address the most urgent needs for additional space across the province.
There are more than 60 projects underway in the province.
Twenty-seven are expected to be open for the 2020-21 school year, and the remaining projects are in various stages of planning and construction.
The province will also provide $527 million to school divisions for plant operations and maintenance to support the day-to-day upkeep of school facilities.
Additionally, $194 million will support the capital maintenance and renewal of existing school buildings through the Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal Program.
When a project is approved, the local school board, Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure work together on the details of the project to help ensure it meets students’ needs.
This will be the case with Morrin School’s replacement.
“The Morrin School replacement was a provincial priority for replacement due to structural and foundation concerns combined with requirements to upgrade and replace major building systems,” said Minister Prasad Panda.
“This project was also Prairie Land School Division’s top capital priority. Infrastructure and Education will work with the School Division to determine the best solution for the school and planning will begin once formal approvals are in place. Following the planning design and tendering stages, the contract will be awarded to a successful bidder. While each school is unique from a cost perspective, a typical k-9 school costs between $20-50 million.”