Shellbrook school project remains top priority for Sask Rivers

Sask Rivers image The possible floor plan for the new Shellbrook consolidated school as appears in an internal memo from the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.

The top major capital priority for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division is the construction of a new K to 12 school to replace W.P. Sandin High School and Shellbrook Elementary School.

The board of education approved the major and minor capital recommendations to be sent to the Ministry of Education at their meeting on Feb. 12. 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 Mike Hurd, Superintendent of Facilities for Sask Rivers, the project has been kicking around for around a decade.

“I believe it was 2014 we had meetings with the School Community Council, with the community itself, the town of Shellbrook, as well as the MLA (Scott Moe) who is the Premier,” Hurd explained.

“We did a feasibility study and applied for the school back in 2014 and then we revisited the feasibility study in 2019. We had it completely redone again, just to make sure that nothing had changed. They did a complete review of that, and we resubmitted that again, so we have been submitting probably now for 10 years.”

Sask Rivers image The possible floor plan for the new Shellbrook consolidated school as appears in an internal memo from the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.

Hurd said that Moe was not the Premier at the time but did support the idea.

Though the project has been submitted for many years it has never made the province’s list for construction at budget time. The project has always been in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division’s top three list submitted to the province and this year was listed as the top priority.

“Since the board decided to apply for (replacement of W.P) Sandin, it’s been it’s been our number one choice all along,” Hurd said.

Hurd said the new school would consolidate the Kindergarten to Grade 5 Shellbrook Elementary School and the Grade 6 to 12 W.P. Sandin School into one building. Hurd said that the new school would give them another 50 years of life for the facility if not more.

“It would be a great facility for a town that seems to have some growth.” he said.

Both current director Neil Finch and former director Robert Bratvold have praised Hurd and his facilities team for their work getting the proposal ready.

“The board does have a commitment to maintaining their buildings, no matter how old they are, and I just work for the board,” Hurd said.

Hurd said the current concept building is in the 5,000 square metre range for size, which will make it smaller than the combined size of the two current schools. The new school will be built on the track next to the current high school, which will be demolished.

The original Shellbrook High School was built in 1961, with additions in 1964, 1966, 1968 and 1985 when the wing on the east side of the school was built.

According to an internal memo provided to the Daily Herald the option the Division selected proposes that the two schools be combined. The memo states that this option has shown success in places like Hudson Bay and Langenberg and often attracts corporate partners and other funding partners in the community to help cover additional amenities not funded by the Ministry of Education.

It also stated that the combined enrolment numbers of the two schools would allow benefits and program models that would not be available in two separate schools. It would also decrease redundancies such as having two Resource Centres (libraries).

“We are ready to go,” Hurd said. “We’ve got the study done. We’ve met all the guidelines for the Ministry as far as the SA1’s for enrolment, space guidelines have been done.”

SA1 is a government form to project enrolment by grade five years ahead.

The division set up three different options in the program plan, according to Hurd. One was to renovate the high school, leave the elementary students where they were. Another was to renovate the high school and incorporate the elementary students within it, and a third was to build a brand new K to 12 high school.

“We have done a lot of work, and studies aren’t cheap either,” Hurd said.

“We typically have to do a five-year prediction. They want to see your enrolment out five years to see where you’re going to be at when you submit that.”

The Ministry has changed the way capital submissions are dealt with. They broke the capital submissions into two categories with some being higher priority handled through capital allocation such as school replacement. Other necessary items did not rank high enough and the Ministry made the decision to split them off.

“Now these are only feasibility studies, so by the time you build the school, the layout might be different,” Hurd said.

Second on the list of major capital priorities is renovation and renewal for Carlton Comprehensive High School and third is construction of a new school to replace Ecole Arthur Pechey School.