Stake­hold­ers col­lab­o­rate on a so­lu­tion in Coal­dale

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY CRAIG AL­BRECHT PAL­LISER SCHOOL DIVI­SION

It’s been coined the “Coal­dale So­lu­tion.” While the of­fi­cial govern­ment sub­mis­sion will carry a more mun­dane ti­tle, there should be no ques­tion of how the pro­posal was ar­rived at.

Pal­liser Re­gional Schools’ ad­min­is­tra­tion, staff, stu­dents and par­ents were joined by town, county and pro­vin­cial govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives in an ef­fort to come up with a so­lu­tion to Coal­dale’s fu­ture ed­u­ca­tional needs.

The multi-day ex­er­cise – known as the value man­age­ment process – ex­plored the de­fi­cien­cies and chal­lenges at three Pal­liser schools in Coal­dale. Up for dis­cus­sion were means to al­le­vi­ate a grow­ing stu­dent pop­u­la­tion at the el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school, and the need to up­date the high school to meet fu­ture learn­ing re­quire­ments.

An ear­lier tour of the schools – Jennie Emery El­e­men­tary School, R.I. Baker Mid­dle School and Kate An­drews High School – was fol­lowed by an out­line of Pal­liser’s pre­ferred op­tion, grade re­con­fig­u­ra­tion at all three and con­struc­tion of a new high school.

Af­ter the group came up with, and then de­bated the mer­its of sev­eral op­tions, the pro­posal the prov­ince will con­sider next spring will be a new build and ren­o­va­tions re­quired at the other two schools to bet­ter ac­com­mo­date grade re­con­fig­u­ra­tion.

The prospect of a new high school be­came even more at­trac­tive with part­ner­ships pos­si­ble through the Town of Coal­dale.

It has of­fered up re­cently an­nexed prop­erty to the west of the Birds of Prey Cen­tre for a new school, with the de­sire of build­ing a recre­ation fa­cil­ity ad­ja­cent to it. The money has al­ready been com­mit­ted, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives said the project could be timed to al­low for a seam­less con­struc­tion of both.

Sec­re­tary-Trea­surer Dex­ter Dur­fey praised the Town of Coal­dale for its will­ing­ness to part­ner with Pal­liser to of­fer the best learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment pos­si­ble for all stu­dents in the com­mu­nity.

“In my ex­pe­ri­ence it’s pretty un­prece­dented,” he said. “It’s al­most a dream come true.”

Ross New­ton, of Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion, noted that com­mit­ment could cer­tainly ex­pe­dite such a project, if ap­proved.A new high school would pro­vide some ca­pac­ity for the fu­ture if grades were re­con­fig­ured with: JEES (now K-Gr 4) pro­vid­ing kinder­garten through Grade 3; R.I. Baker (now Gr 5-9) of­fer­ing Grades 4-6; and KAHS (now Gr 10-12) ex­pand­ing to Grades 7- 12. That sce­nario could see Pal­liser seek­ing con­struc­tion of an­other el­e­men­tary school 10 to 15 years down the road.

New­ton em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of look­ing at all pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, if he was to ad­vo­cate on be­half of any of them. In the end, how­ever, the least costly of the mod­ern­iza­tion op­tions did not bring with it a huge cost sav­ings. The dis­rup­tion that comes with mov­ing stu­dents around to up­grade ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties in phases also has to be con­sid­ered.

The fact the value man­age­ment ex­er­cise was held does not guar­an­tee ap­proval. Each year the prov­ince re­ceives some 400 re­quests for mod­ern­iza­tion or new school builds. On av­er­age, it ap­proves roughly two dozen of those, for about $400 mil­lion in to­tal fund­ing.

If the pro­posal is ap­proved next April, the best case sce­nario would see the new school open in the fall of 2022.

Pal­liser Schools pho­tos

Par­tic­i­pants are shown the au­to­mo­tives fa­cil­i­ties at Kate An­drews High School dur­ing an ear­lier ex­er­cise to come up with pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to Coal­dale’s ed­u­ca­tional needs.

Par­tic­i­pants are shown the au­to­mo­tives fa­cil­i­ties at Kate An­drews High School dur­ing an ear­lier ex­er­cise to come up with pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to Coal­dale’s ed­u­ca­tional needs.

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