Education infrastructure was the focus of the latest provincial announcement as they officially announced the go-ahead of upgrades at John Paul II Collegiate.
The funding for the $11.5 million renovation had already been announced in the provincial budget this year, but it was still welcome news for Light of Christ Catholic Schools officials to hear the deputy premier and education minister, Gord Wyant, confirm the project was a go on Tuesday.
Planning has begun for the upgrades, which will include renovations and a new addition to the high school.
The announcement was made on the south side of the high school with several local officials in attendance, including Battlefords MLA Herb Cox, Mayor Ryan Bater, and Light of Christ division officials including vice-chair of the board, Adrienne Welter, and Director of Education Cory Rideout.
The chief financial officer of Light of Christ division, Jordan Kist, said their original application to the province was focused on some primary areas, at the forefront being the modernization of the school for 21st century needs.
“We need to address age and infrastructure,” said Kist.
Safety was also cited as a priority.
The upgrade includes an addition to the servery and a modernized home economics and industrial arts space, upgrades to washrooms and to common area floors and other existing spaces including the gymnasium. They want to also add a modernized resource centre and theatre, and a revised entrance to the south side.
The planning phase has just begun, and Kist said they are in the midst of selecting a project manager.
“This project has been at the top of our priority list for at least five years,” Welter said. “In addition to ensuring even greater safety and accessibility, this renovation will allow us to provide for cutting-edge learning opportunities that ensure students have skills for future success.”
Welter said they were most excited about the expansion in the practical and applied arts area, which she said would allow them to provide greater programming opportunities such as “electronics, robotics, commercial cooking in the new industrial kitchen and servery, more science, emerging technologies and fine arts programming. There is even the potential for a new theatre space.”
The high school itself was built in 1912 and has seen major renovations and upgrades over the years, including in the mid-80s and again in 2004. The school’s importance to Catholic education in the region was cited, as Welter pointed out it is the only Catholic high school in the northwest area, apart from Lloydminster.
The intention, according to Wyant, is for the upgrade work to be completed in the fall of 2023. He pledged the government would “work with Light of Christ School Division and the community to ensure the upgrades are completed in a timely manner.”
This is one of several school upgrade projects the government has green lighted, with Wyant citing over 50 renovated schools over the last number years. Wyant said that there were several things that stood out about Light of Christ’s application.
“This was the number one priority for Light of Christ,” said Wyant, who noted that when they go through the school division requests for capital, they are prioritized by the province based on a number of factors. “This one was one of the ones that got to the top of the list as a result of the factors which we have applied at the Ministry of Education.”
At the announcement, it was that acknowledged these were challenging times for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic as schools across the province are two weeks into their reopening. The announcement itself, held outdoors on the south side of the school, saw social-distancing protocols in place.
“This is an uncertain time for everyone, but we are seeing schools as comforting from administrators, teachers, administrative assistants, and custodians,” said Wyant. “Everyone is doing their part to ensure that students have made a safe return to the classroom.”