Late modules mean cramped classes

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City schools short six portables this fall

Some St. Albert Public schools will be a little cramped this fall due to the late delivery of six portable classrooms.

St. Albert Public was supposed to get six new portables this fall to relieve a space crunch at Bellerose Composite, Elmer S. Gish and Leo Nickerson Elementary, says superintendent Barry Wowk.

“Sadly, they’re going to be late.”

Alberta Infrastructure ordered 118 modular classrooms for this fall, says spokesperson Sharon Lopatka. Of those, 35 are behind schedule, six of which are headed to St. Albert.

“We had a new manufacturer we were working with,” she explains, and it took them longer than expected to get the prototype design right.

The modules won’t be ready for pickup until mid-to-late October, says St. Albert Public associate superintendent Michael Brenneis. Once they’re here, crews will need about 15 days to set them up for students.

“Realistically, we’re looking at November” before the modules will be ready, he says.

Notre Dame Elementary’s new portable is also a little late, says Catholic superintendent David Keohane.

“We were hoping to get it for the first of September,” he says, but it won’t be here until about the second week of that month.

Keohane says they pretty much expect portables to be late at this point, given that there’s just one builder in Alberta (Modus Structures) and a huge demand for them.

“We’re trying to be positive about this.”

Wowk says he was very frustrated when he heard of the delay last July, but has become resigned to it.

The delays worsen the public board’s ongoing space crunch. Gish and Nickerson had utilization rates of 104 and 105 per cent last year, respectively (or 28 and 20 more students than they should have under provincial standards), while the district had one of the highest utilization rates in the province.

The modulars were supposed to act as a stop-gap measure for the board’s new school, Lois E. Hole Elementary, which is scheduled to open in 2017. (Said school is also behind schedule, as it was set to open in 2016.)

Students at the affected schools will use libraries, staff, art and music rooms as classrooms until the modulars come in, Brenneis says.

“Without a doubt, they will be moving into some less-than-desirable alternatives” for classrooms, he says.

The district is also looking at about four per cent overall growth in enrolment this fall, Brenneis says. He expects the figures for Nickerson and Gish will be higher.

Schools across Alberta have been affected by these delays, Lopatka says. Edmonton Catholic Schools is waiting on 16 portables, for example.

“We know that these classrooms are needed, and we want to do everything we can to get them there so kids can start using them.”

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.