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St. Albert school to get modernized

$10 million project will add industrial arts space and new modulars

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Monday, Jan 20, 2014 01:00 pm

CASH FOR RENOS – Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner announces new provincial dollars to modernize W.D. Cuts in St. Albert .
CASH FOR RENOS – Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner announces new provincial dollars to modernize W.D. Cuts in St. Albert .
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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W.D. Cuts students will finally get to take shop class now that the province has dropped off $10 million to renovate their school.

Spruce Grove-St. Albert MLA Doug Horner visited St. Albert's W.D. Cuts Junior High School Monday morning to announce a roughly $10 million project to modernize the school.

The project is part of the province's $503 million plan to build 50 new schools and renovate 70 by 2016.

St. Albert is one of the fastest-growing communities in the province and W.D. Cuts is bursting at the seams, Horner said before a library full of Grade 9 students.

The school is also one of the only junior highs in the region without a career and technology studies (CTS) lab.

This modernization will add student capacity and a CTS lab to the school, Horner said.

"We haven't set a dollar figure yet, but I can tell you it's more than $10 million," Horner said.

The exact cost will depend on the final plans and tenders.

St. Albert Public board chair Gerry Martins said this is some of the best news he's heard during his 10 years with the board.

"We actually wanted to have this modernized back in the 1990s," he said, adding that such a desire was thwarted by provincial cutbacks.

Setting up shop

Cuts is one of only two junior high schools in St. Albert without a CTS lab. The other one, Alexandre-Taché, will get a CTS lab once its new building is built in 2016.

CTS is the first thing parents ask about when they come to Cuts, said principal Mike Tod. The school brought in a sports academy and a sewing lab to make up for the lack of industrial arts and home economics courses.

The timing for this announcement couldn't be better, Tod said.

"As this school is going to grow because all this area is growing, we're going to need more choices for options."

The CTS lab will give students a taste of the trades before high school and help address Alberta's ongoing trades shortage, Martins said.

The cash will also pay for the addition and/or replacement of six to eight modular classrooms, Horner said.

Last year the public board's student population grew some 5.5 per cent – or by about 350 students, Martins said.

"That's bigger than this school," he noted.

Many of the school's modulars, meanwhile, are about 30 years old and are in need of replacement.

The last time the province put any serious money into Cuts was around 1978, Horner said, when asked why the province decided to do this modernization. This region had also seen a surge in younger students moving in.

"This modernization gets five per cent more expensive every year we don't do it, and we can go out to the market and do it for three per cent (interest) today," he said.

"We're not borrowing to pay for groceries. We're borrowing to pay for long term assets."

Martins said he's not sure when the modernization will start, as the board first has to update its 20-year-old plans for the project.

"We certainly hope it'll be soon," he said.

A similar modernization at Lorne Akins took about three years, he added.

This is the third major school-funding announcement affecting St. Albert in two years. Last May the province said it will build a new grade 7-to-12 francophone school and a K-to-6 public school by 2016.

The new school and the Cuts modernization have been on the public board's wish list for at least 10 years, Martins said.

Now that they've been realized, the board needs to start planning for its next new school, he said – with a 5.5 per cent growth rate, its new K-to-6 school will be full as soon as it opens.


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