Construction begins at Fairview School, Ecole Centennial School remains on schedule

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With Swift Current teachers and students preparing to return to classes, construction crews continue to bustle at a pair of city school project sites.

Construction crews are now on site beginning a major expansion project at Swift Current's Fairview School, while work at the Ecole Centennial School/All Saints Catholic School remains on schedule for that project to be completed for the start of the 2014-15 school year.

Chinook School Division Director of Education Liam Choo-Foo said the Division is excited about the dual construction projects.

A tender from Regina based Gabriel Construction was formally accepted for the Fairview School project at a special meeting of Chinook's Board of Education on June 24. With the school preparing to transition from a middle years school into a Kindergarten to Grade 8 school, the major project will involve adding a new gymnasium and reconfiguring other spaces into classrooms.

After putting their plans in place over the summer, Gabriel Construction crews are now on site and beginning excavation work on the east side of the school along with interior work in the existing change rooms.

"The Fairview project itself will be sort of a three phased project. We want to maintain the integrity of the existing gym for this school year so it's usable. So phase one will be building the new gym off to the east side, with as little disruption as possible for the regular flow of the school," Choo-Foo explained during an interview last Friday.

As new change rooms and shower rooms will be built as part of the new gymnasium, the current renovation inside the school will be to redevelop the existing change rooms into foyer/crush area space.

"Phases two and three will run a little bit more simultaneously. Phase two is the redevelopment of the existing gym into a resource centre or library, possibly with a glass-wall computer lab within it. And it's also going to have a mezzanine in it that will be open, and a few offices up there for some of the specialty personnel that come in, like Educational Psychologists, and Speech Language Pathologists.

"The existing library and computer lab and art room are all in the northwest quadrant of the school, so that quadrant is going to be then redeveloped into classrooms. That's where we'll get the extra capacity for the extra students that will be coming in."

"Our target is to have kids in there for when we come back from the Christmas break in January 2015," he confirmed.

The board has looked at the new Ecole Centennial School coming on stream as a pre-Kindergarten to Grade 8 facility for students north of Highway #1, while making a commitment to Southside residents to provide K to Grade 8 schooling in the Southside. At the Jan. 14 meeting of the Chinook School Board a motion was approved to self-fund $4 million in renovations to Fairview School to keep progress on track with the new École Centennial project.

Choo-Foo noted that on the Ministry of Education's capital list, work on Fairview School was ranked in the 60s on the priority list, meaning there would be a long delay in funding assistance in order to complete the necessary renovations.

"That said to us it was at least 10 years before it would move to the top. And with the opening of Ecole Centennial, the closure of Oman, we just knew for the education services within the City, it wasn't going to fit what our needs were."

For that reason the board moved forward on the renovation project, as they have learned over the past decade that construction costs tend to continually go up, as opposed to decreasing.

"If you project out 10 years what the costs of the Fairview reno could possibly be, even if the province funded it, our share of that bigger number was going to possibly be what it is today at the current pricing. So the board made that decision of going ahead."

Fairview School is being projected as a 300 student facility when it opens as a K to 8 school.

"The City is growing. We've had a steadily growing enrollment population over the last three or four years in the City of Swift Current," Choo-Foo said. "We do need to be cognizant that while our projections have been pretty good, we are sort of factoring in a bit of a growth factor as well."

Choo-Foo was also excited to report construction at Ecole Centennial School, which has been ongoing for a number of months, is progressing on time and on budget. The ceremonial ground breaking for the dual track pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 school project occurred back on Oct. 18, 2012, with the Chinook School Division starting their French Immersion Ecole Centennial School, and the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division beginning work on the All Saints Catholic School.

"Because it's such a complicated project being joint with Holy Trinity, and then also further complexity around being part of a future Integrated Facility with Healthcare and with the City itself, there's been a lot of pre-work that's had to be done there."

"Now that we've actually gotten into the construction phase it has gone smoothly. We've had a few little blips that have put our contractor a little bit behind, but a think because of the size of the project, he's been able to reschedule and redeploy workers to different facets that start to fall behind and he gets us back on speed.

"So right now we're on time, we're on budget," he said. "We're feeling very good about it. We're still a year out and so lots can happen. I'm very cautiously optimistic with the progress out at that school."

During August 2014, staff will be preparing for the first students to attend the new schools during the 2014-15 school year. For the Chinook School Division, the change to the larger school will require a change in personnel from the existing schools.

"It's going to have significant effect on our staff as we staff that school. It's going to be a 500-student school, and so we will be redeploying staff from throughout the city. So none of our school will actually have exactly the same people in them come the fall of 2014, and so there will be some change."

Choo-Foo, who first came to Swift Current in 2002, noted that the city school division had already been working for a few years on a replacement for Ecole Oman School, and had in fact just gotten first stage approval to begin looking into a new facility.

"This has been a long-time in coming. So it will be very fulfilling and meet the needs hopefully for 50 years of that segment of our community."

Organizations: Fairview School, Ecole Centennial School/All Saints Catholic School, Holy Trinity Catholic School Division All Saints Catholic School Ecole Oman School Chinook School Division

Geographic location: Swift Current

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