Sask. Rivers board votes to replace historic gym floor at PACI

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald New board chair Darlene Rowden chaired her first meeting for the Saskatchewan Rivers board of education on Monday. Nov. 28.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division has approved three major capital infrastructure projects to be completed over the next three years.

The projects were approved as part of the Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) plan and budget at Monday’s board of education meeting. The board also approved the major and minor capital recommendations to be sent to the Ministry of Education.

The PMR report and Major and Minor Capital report were presented by superintendent of facilities Mike Hurd.

The most important project is the replacement of the existing hardwood floor in the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) gymnasium. The project will see the original floor at the historic building replaced at a cost of $98,239.

“We have sanded and refinished that floor lots of times in the history of the division, but it is at a point where there is not enough wood left to do that appropriately, so it’s time for replacement,” education director Robert Bratvold said. “As we talked about at the table, that is a historic building. Lots of memories in that floor.

“It’s the heritage part. The hard connection part is all there,” he added. “It’s also clearly an indication of the great work the division does to make sure facilities are cared for, maintained and renewed when it needed to be renewed.”

Other projects approved in the amended plan for 2023 include modernization of washrooms at Carlton Comprehensive High School, paving and a lot rebuild at the Bus Maintenance Facility, space renovations to build an accessible washroom at John Diefenbaker School, and development of a division wide facilities master plan.

Looking ahead, projects approved in 2024-2025 include boiler replacement at Vickers Public School and a roof replacement at Carlton.

The 2025-2026 list includes the aforementioned replacement of the PACI gym floor, replacement of boilers at Big River School and replacement of roofs on two gyms at Carlton.

The deadline for submitting PMR is May 31.

The projected preventative maintenance budget in 2022-2023 is $697,000 and in 2024-2025 the budget is $683,826. Each year new projects spring up to keep schools in workable condition.

The Ministry of Education Infrastructure Branch invites all school divisions to submit their top three major capital and top two minor capital funding requests by March 8.

According to Bratvold, the Ministry has changed the way capital submissions happen.

“There was a change in the ministry where they have tried to break up capital projects into a couple of categories,” he explained. “There would be high priority items that needed to be handled through capital allocation and what was happening is some of the smaller things could have been done if there was a separate category, but they didn’t rank high enough for the priority to actually be done.

“If you allocate a proportion of money to those minor capital things you can keep up some of those fairly large scale but not complete replacements. Basically, the major capital was all school replacement.”

It’s been a while since the province selected one of Saskatchewan Rivers’ projects as their top priority. Bratvold said it’s surprising because their projects meet most of the criteria.

“We see similar projects around the province,” he said. “We don’t know all of the details to those (projects), but it is surprising and a little bit disappointing that (happens). We know we have got a need. We know we have got good plans. We know we have taken good care of our facilities, so it is time for that construction.”

The top major capital priority is the construction of a new K to 12 school to replace W.P. Sandin High School and Shellbrook Elementary School. Second on the list is the construction of a new school to replace Princess Margaret School and in third place is the construction of a new school to replace Ecole Arthur Pechey School.

Bratvold said that projects approved ahead of Sask Rivers projects often make sense because they are in growing neighbourhoods in places like Saskatoon.

“We talk to the ministry and say, ‘what can we do? How can we help you understand the need and the context of our requests?” he said. “It is still a clear and present need that we have some consolidation of some of our schools, particularly up at WP Sandin in Shellbrook. That is a school that has served us well and it needs replacement and hopefully, the Ministry can see their way to it.”

The top minor capital priority is the renovations and renewal of Carlton Comprehensive High School and in second is the renovations and renewal of Christopher Lake Public School.

All submissions are reviewed, prioritized and placed on both the Major and Minor lists. Decisions on awarding of funding will be announced on Budget Day 2024.

As well, the board will be receiving the final report on their Facilities Review by Prince Albert architectural firm AODBT ahead of their next regular meeting on March 27.