Prairie South delays Gravelbourg discussion

Nathan Liewicki
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Construction project scheduled to begin in October

According to Shawn Davidson, board chair of the Prairie South School Division (PSSD), Gravelbourg Elementary School is the most under utilized school in the division.

Prairie South School Division board members Tim McLeod and chair Shawn Davidson are seen during Tuesday's PSSD board meeting. Davidson, who is the trustee for Gravelbourg, spoke extensively about the new ministry-funded project in the town following the meeting.

“The ministry outlines how much space you need for students,” Davidson told the Times-Herald on Tuesday. “Based on the student population of Gravelbourg Elementary School, and the ministry of education’s calculations, we are currently using 17 per cent of that facility.”

Considering the school – a former convent – has 90,000 square feet of space, the excess heating, cleaning and maintenance costs of the under and unutilized space of the building were unnecessary.

“Even if we had all the high school and elementary population within that facility … that building would only be 40 per cent full,” said Davidson.

As such, a transformative change was needed.

In March 2013, the provincial government agreed to fund a capital construction project for the school that would contribute to proper utilization of that space.

The construction aspect of the project, which will consolidate Gravelbourg’s elementary school and high school under one roof, is estimated to cost nearly $6.8 million. Including GST, consultant fees, furniture allowance and a construction contingency, the total cost of the project is expected to have a price tag near $8.5 million.

The PSSD board was expected to discuss the project’s final Design Development Report at Tuesday’s meeting, but that agenda item was pushed back until the next meeting on Aug. 11.

“At this point in time we ended up in a situation where that particular design is not going to be exactly what we can and want to submit to the ministry,” said Davidson.

“We decided to remove it from the agenda until the final plans are received because we don’t want to accept the design, adopt it, submit it to the ministry and then have to go back to form an amended design.”

One of the reasons the PSSD board decided to adopt an August meeting was to analyze, debate and pass P3A Architecture’s final report and design before sending it to the ministry for approval.

Davidson noted that in consultation with the ministry, a couple of issues within what has since been deemed a preliminary report, were off the mark and need to be tweaked slightly before being presented to the board.

Despite the delay, Davidson, as the PSSD trustee for Gravelbourg’s two schools, is very enthused about the anticipated construction start this coming October, as well as the projected completion date in September 2015.

“In all likelihood it is the only major (rural) capital construction that I will likely see in my tenure as the board chair and as the trustee in that area,” he explained. “It is exciting to be involved in one of them, and it’s exciting to be involved in one of them in my area.”

Not only will the project benefit Gravelbourg students, it will also preserve the history of the former convent. Along with the cathedral and bishop’s residence, the convent has been nationally recognized for its historical significance in the development of French Catholic culture in the community and parts of southern Saskatchewan.

“There is lots of emotional tie and tremendous community support for the existing elementary school,” said Davidson. “That’s why, as the trustee for the area, I have been working with friends of the Gravelbourg convent.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

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