New city schools likely delayed by several months
Province ditching P3s pushes back schedule
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Friday, Jun 20, 2014 04:15 pm
Two new schools in St. Albert will likely not open on time in 2016 now that the province has scrapped its P3 deal to build them.
Alberta Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale announced Wednesday that the province would not go forward with a proposed public-private partnership (P3) deal to build 19 new schools. Instead, it will build the schools conventionally.
Two of those 19 schools are slated for construction in St. Albert.
The province originally pitched the P3 as a way to save money on construction. The deal, had it gone through, would have seen the winning bidder design, build and maintain the schools for about 30 years.
But the province only got one bid on the project, and it came in at $570.7 million – about $14 million more than what it would cost through traditional procurement methods, said Christine Way, press secretary for the ministry of Infrastructure.
“The P3 partnership did not provide value for Alberta taxpayer’s money,” she said.
The province has therefore rejected it.
School boards can now choose to either have the government tender contracts for each building or to seek contractors on their own, Way said.
But cancelling the P3 also means construction delays. The new schools, which include St. Albert’s Lois E. Hole Elementary and the new École Alexandre-Taché, are now set to open sometime in 2017 instead of September 2016.
The province doesn’t know how long each school will be delayed as it has yet to tender the contracts, Way said.
“We’re hoping it’s very minimal.”
Local schools delayed
The board of St. Albert Public Schools had hoped that Lois Hole Elementary would open on time both to house new students in the city’s growing north and to relieve a space crunch at Leo Nickerson and Elmer S. Gish.
Officials from the province said this new school will likely be two to three months late, said public board superintendent Barry Wowk. If it is, students will likely spend the first half of the 2016-2017 school year in another building before transferring over for the second semester.
“All we can do is hope we’re one of the first ones that come out of the gate,” Wowk said.
The board had decided to leave the school’s construction in the province’s hands, Wowk said.
“We’re comfortable with (Alberta Infrastructure) delivering the school as we planned.”
Francophone board superintendent Henri Lemire said any delay on the new building for Alexandre-Taché would mean more lost students for the board. (Alexandre-Taché students are currently being taught in overcrowded space in the basement of the Youville Home long-term care facility.)
“Not good at all,” Lemire said.
Lemire criticized the province for waiting so long before making this decision, arguing that officials must have seen this outcome coming months ago.
“If the government had made this decision even three months earlier … we’d probably be able to say with much more assurance that we are moving in during 2016.”
The francophone board will vote Tuesday on whether or not to go it alone in building this school, Lemire said.
His recommendation is that the board take over the project from the province. This would draw more potential bids for the project (as it would be for one school instead of a larger bundle), and let the board make use of its on-staff expertise.
Lemire said construction of the new school could start as early as next April, which, given that similar schools have taken 10 months to build, could let Alexandre-Taché open on time.
“We believe we can get it done by 2016,” he said.
“It’s looking pretty positive.”
Wowk and Lemire had no concerns about having to do maintenance on these new schools. Such maintenance is funded through a provincial grant.