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New school for Riviere Qui Barre

Camilla School students will have a brand school by 2021, the province has announced.
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Camilla School students will have a brand school by 2021, the province has announced.

And just in time, too: a recent report suggests the current Sturgeon County school was in such bad condition that it represented an "extreme safety concern" to students.

Premier Rachel Notley announced Tuesday at the Woodhaven Middle School in Spruce Grove that the province would invest some $500 million into 26 school projects this year.

One of those projects is the replacement of Camilla School in RiviÈre Qui Barre. The others include the construction and planning of 10 new schools in Airdrie, Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge, and numerous modernizations.

"Every child deserves a great education and that doesn't happen without great schools," Notley said, speaking before the Woodhaven school choir and local dignitaries in the school's library.

"Investing in new schools is one of the most important things we can do. It's an investment in our children and in the future of our incredible province."

Notley said that these 26 projects should create about 6,000 jobs. Most, but not all, would be complete by September 2021, with construction starting in 2018.

Sturgeon School Division superintendent MichÈle Dick said she was pleased by the province's decision, as Camilla School had been number one on their capital priorities list for years.

Reached on vacation in Mexico, area Coun. Jerry Kaup cheered the announcement, saying that the current school was in "pretty bad shape" due to persistent drainage issues.

"I hope it stays in RiviÈre Qui Barre, though. That's what keeps that community active."

The county did have land in the area that could accommodate a new school, he noted.

Crumbling Camilla

A report to the Sturgeon School Division board this week featured a long list of infrastructure problems at Camilla School, which was built in 1954. Built in 1954 and last renovated in 1993, the school currently hosts about 470 students and has room for some 680.

The report suggests that many of the school's problems were due to the fact that it was built at a low spot of a floodplain, resulting in chronic drainage issues. Improperly installed catch-basins caused the parking lot to flood each spring, for example, and groundwater leeched out under the school regularly, "indicating what are likely serious sub-structure issues."

The report notes that some parts of the school had rotted out floors and that "mould could become a huge issue."

It also noted that the school had to be partially evacuated in spring 2015 due to a partial roof and wall collapse that cost $400,000 to repair.

"Other wings of the school reflect the same potential for disaster. Extreme safety concern."

The report also noted that the shape of the school was a security risk, as it made monitoring difficult, and that the school had no dedicated group space for junior high students. Doors, wires, lights, windows, sidewalks, the parking lot and the ventilation system all needed replacement, and the laminate countertops were "falling apart."

Dick said Alberta Infrastructure inspected the school in 2015 and recommended replacing it instead of renovating, as a renovation would cost about 77 per cent of the cost of a new building.

The report to the board pegged the cost of a replacement school at $11.7 million. Alberta Education spokesperson Lindsay Harvey said that the actual budget had yet to be determined.

Dick said she would soon meet with the province to discuss the details of the new school.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: 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.
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