Sask. Rivers buildings well maintained according to report

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

Facilities in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division remain well maintained, according the annual Accountability Report on Facilities.

Trustees reviewed the report during their regular meeting on Monday, April 4. The report is prepared by Superintendent of Facilities Mike Hurd, who oversees the buildings in the division, and provides an update on a number of subjects. This year director of education Robert Bratvold gave the report in place of Hurd.

This year’s report shows that Facilities or Plant Operations make up 14.63 percent of the budget in the division. Their $14.5 million budget and includes Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) funding and capital expenditures.

The division averages about 250 service requests a month. Service requests are submitted electronically through Asset Planner software by administration and caretakers. Bratvold said he and the board are happy with how those requests are handled.

“A relatively small number of staff are managing those in a very effective way, so that’s good,” Brtavold said.

PMR projects are based on square footage of facilities. The division received $2,630,000 in 2020-2021.

Major projects completed this year include replacement of rooftop units at Spruce Home, Meath Park and Wild Rose, replacement of roofs at WP Sandin and Riverside over their libraries and mold remediation in the tunnels under Kinistino School. Another project included the installation of bi polar ionization unites in all hair handling equipment in the division.

According to Bratvold two key items in the report were improved air quality and the completion of the LED retrofit project. The division added ionization units in every air handling unit in every building in the division. “That has been a great addition, and then last year we did an LED retrofit project,” Bratvold explained. “Every light fixture in our division has been converted to LED lighting and that provides not only better lighting but also great savings.”

To date, the change has saved the division around $275,000 this year alone. Bratvold said the savings will go back into student learning and other needs.

He added that the value and efficiency that these projects add are an important aspect because of the tight budget the division is under.

“These things provide great efficiencies in terms of dollar values but also enhance the learning environment,” he said. “If you can do both of those things, and these are a couple of examples that will do that, that’s a great thing to get both sides of that equation.”

Bratvold said the overall budget impact is still a challenge as the division’s buildings are between 14 and 113 years old. In the recent provincial budget, the division’s top three capital projects again didn’t make the province’s funding list approved by the Ministry of Education.

“We recognize even though we have got old schools, in many cases, built in the 1960s or 1970s, we have kept those facilities in great condition, so they don’t have any health and safety concerns being recognized by the Ministry capital projects,” Bratvold explained. “It is a little bit challenging. We have got facilities that are due for replacement and it would be great to get brand new schools in some of our communities, but they are in such good shape that the Ministry doesn’t recognize the need so that’s where we are at.”

Bratvold added that the well-maintained buildings are a credit to staff. However, it also makes it tough to get on the capital funding list.

“Mike Hurd and his team, both maintenance and caretaking staff do lots of work to keep schools not just functional but very well cared for and that’s reassuring,” he said.

Bratvold explained that the division recently had a discussion with Deputy Minister of Education Donna Johnson that was productive and not the first one.

“She acknowledges that our applications are thorough they provide everything that’s required and then some. We provide some third-party feasibility studies that support our projects, so she recognizes that our applications are thorough,” Bratvold said.

He explained that the Ministry has primarily been allocating capital for replacing schools with health and safety concerns and to construct schools with intense enrolment growth and they are all in and around Regina and Saskatoon.

“So that’s their reality and we know that we have got kids and staff still working in great facilities just not quite recognized by the Ministry capital process yet,” he said.

Bratvold said that the trustees will be able to see the buildings first hand for the first time in two years when they do school tours, which will include 11 rural schools and are planned for May.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to go out and get into our schools and see first hand the work that caretaking and maintenance staff are doing to keep schools great places and in great condition,” Bratvold said. “It also lets them connect with students and staff and see what kind of programming is going on in school.”