Students returning to school in the community of Charlottetown, Labrador, will start the year at a temporary learning facility. It’s the same location they were moved to last year, when the heavily water damaged roof of the nearly 50-year-old school began tumbling into classrooms.
The students were moved from the school to the community’s Gospel Hall Church to attend the rest of their classes.
In June of last year, the provincial government in partnership with the Department of Education and the Department Municipal Affairs committed more than $7 million to build short-term classrooms onto the Charlottetown recreation centre and, in the long-term, completely rebuild all classrooms and administrative spaces at the local William Gillett Academy school.
Director of Education with the Western School District Ross Elliot says the school board is happy with the generous response the provincial government has made, and says he and the School Board are very grateful to the Gospel Hall church and congregation for accommodating the students while construction of the temporary classrooms can be completed.
“I think the two departments of government are to be commended for that kind of cooperation and vision. It’s going to be an excellent use of the resources there,” said Elliot. “The result of this partnership is that we will have facilities for students in the short term, but when students vacate the space and move to the new school, the town will have a much expanded community centre.”
Currently, the school side of the project is in the design stages and tenders have been awarded to companies in the area for the installation of mechanical heating and ventilation systems to a space being constructed adjacent to the community centre as well as tender to carry out interior work to prepare the recreation centre for classroom space to house students while the school is being constructed. The school is slated for opening in September 2014.
“At this stage the new school is into its planning and design, of course these stages always take some planning, so its not ready to go to tender yet,” said Elliot.
Elliot says the entire structure except for the gymnasium wing of the old school will be rebuilt.
The new school will have full accessibility and other features that would have been deficient in the older building,” said Elliot. “The only part of the structure that will be retained is the gymnasium, built in 1993.”
The school will be designed with all new classroom space, built with new materials, on a concrete foundation. There will be a skill trades room that doubles as a science lab. A new resource centre/computer room, home economics/lunch room, distance education room and music room as well as upgrades to the interior and exterior of the gym wing.
“We’re happy that in the long-term we are moving towards a structure that will provide excellent facilities for Charlottetown for years into the future,” said Elliot.
The planning and work is being done through done through partnership between the Department of Education and the Department of Municipal Affairs. Once completed, the interim instructional space will be repurposed into a municipal building.
“The plan is that these new structures built onto the recreation centre will serve as short term classrooms during the period of time that the new school is built, after that these structures will become a part of the municipal building,” said Elliot.
“And the community at the end of it will have the new school as well as the new municipal structure,” he added.
With the exterior of the temporary classrooms/municipal building nearing completion, the target date for the completion of the short-term classrooms is October 1, 2012.
Although the target date has been set, Elliot says it’s possible the building may take a little longer than projected, simply due to normal construction delays, but he does expected the work to be completed in October.
“Currently, through cooperation with the community, the students will be in temporary facilities for the month or so, until they are ready to move into the newly constructed temporary classrooms,” said Elliot.
Meanwhile, Elliot explained although the School Board is still working on the exact location for the High school students. It is exploring a number of potential possibilities and one of the priorities for high school students is to have them in a location where distance learning can be accessed and they can have access to computer facilities.
“We’re still working on the exact location. There are number of possibilities which we hope to have sorted out over the next day or so,” said Elliot.
He says despite the difficulties the community and its students have faced recently, he is encouraged by the success of the school’s students and community.
“This community is committed to scholastic achievement and maintain a level of academic achievement higher than the provincial average,” said Elliot, “that speaks a lot of the students, teachers and parents in the community.