Saskatchewan Rivers facilities in excellent shape according to report

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

A new report looking at the state of Saskatchewan Rivers School Division facilities shows that the schools are in good shape despite aging infrastructure.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board received their annual Accountability Report on Facilities at their regular meeting on Monday. The report shows that Facilities or Plant Operations make up 14.67 per cent of the budget in the division. Their $14.2 million budget includes Preventative Maintenance and Renewal (PMR) funding and capital expenditures.

Superintendent of Facilities Mike Hurd prepared the report. He said the buildings are in great condition.

“Our facilities are really good, considering the age,” Hurd said.

“The condition of our building portfolio right now, we’re in very good shape and that’s because the board puts the money forward. We get our PMR money from the Ministry. The board supports our operating budget very well, and we’ve been able to do things. You can always use more money and we could always do more work, more projects.”

The newest Sask. Rivers building is 20 years old, while the oldest is 115. Over half of the buildings were constructed prior to 1970 while the remaining buildings were built between 1970 and 2012.

Hurd said the 115-year-old Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) is in great shape, adding that as buildings get older they require more attention.

“It would be in the top condition of any other school that we own, and it’s 115 years old,” Hurd said. “Because of the way it was built back in the day—and we’ve maintained it and kept it up—it’s been able to stand the test of time.”

Hurd said schools built in the 1960s are called “Baby Boomer Schools” and were constructed hastily all over the province. He said those schools are now in their second life cycle, and the chance of getting a third out of them is “very slim.”

The division has replaced items like windows, rooves, and mechanical systems, but Hurd said sewer systems could become a problem at these schools because the piping is in the concrete slabs.

“They are going to start causing grief down the road,” he explained. “Within the next decade, there are going to be a lot of those schools around the province that are going to have to be replaced.”

Hurd credited his own staff for keeping the schools in good shape. He said having a the same staff year after year has helped.

“We have enough staff to handle the maintenance in a division that’s fairly broad. In all disciplines, we have carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and so we’re able to manage our own portfolio,” Hurd said.

“Our maintenance team hardly changes and our caretakers stay with us till they retire and things like that, so that says something about Sask Rivers.”

The Ministry of Education provides funding through the PMR program each year. The board approves a new PMR three-year plan each year in June.

The facilities budget is broken down into 45 per cent building operating expenses, 18 per cent amortization, 35 per cent salaries and two per cent other. Facilities currently employees 65 full time equivalent caretaking staff, 14 maintenance staff and three supervisors and support staff. Caretakers are assigned based on size of facilities. For example, Carlton has three full time staff assigned due to the size of the building.

According to Hurd, they are averaging about 250 service requests a month. These are reviewed quarterly to make sure targets are met. Service requests are submitted electronically through Asset Planner software by administration and caretakers.

PMR projects are based on square footage of facilities. The division received $2,900,000 in 2022-2023.

Hurd said the boilers are replaced even if they are functional because it is a more prudent way to deal with the issues.

He added that the money going into facilities is consistent.

“The thing that changes is the project work. That’s the stuff that changes a lot,” Hurd said.

“We do 50 to 40 projects a year. We will do 30 small projects and then we’ll do eight or 10 larger projects,”

Hurd is hoping for a new build with the division’s top priority being an amalgamation of Shellbrook schools.

“We haven’t had a new build for a while, which would be nice, but that’s how things go. We would be happy to build a new school out in Shellbrook, but it’s not happening yet,” he said.

LED Lighting retrofit project success outlined in report

During his report, Hurd also updated the board on the success of an LED Lighting retrofit on all facilities in 2019-2020.

Hurd said that the project has exceeded expectations.

“We were able to get a bit of Carbon Tax rebate when they were giving money away, giving it back to us. We used that and then some of our own money in that project and it’s just been a great project. As you saw, I rolled up those three years, and $600,000 towards the savings and the utility cost,” Hurd said.

“We actually reduced our electrical budget the first two years and then as the increases started coming we didn’t reduce it anymore. Then just this last year we’re going to have to add more to our budget for utility but we’re still saving money because we would have had to add that money earlier … so that was a good project for us, a really good project.”