FH Collins now looking for an architect

FH Collins students are one step closer to having a new school. The third draft of the requirements specifications, which defines the scope of the project and what the school will contain, was approved by the FH Collins Secondary School Building Advisory Committee.

FH Collins students are one step closer to having a new school.

The third draft of the requirements specifications, which defines the scope of the project and what the school will contain, was approved by the FH Collins Secondary School Building Advisory Committee last Wednesday.

The committee is now looking for an architect. The finished project is expected to cost about $50 million.

“This is the biggest school project that we’ve built in the territory, certainly in my experience,” said Gordon DeBruyn, facilities project manager with the Department of Education.

This is roughly what the committee was planning on spending on the new high school, but prices have gone up in he past few years, said DeBruyn.

The new FH Collins will cost three times per square foot what the French-language school cost when it was built back in 1995.

The committee is aiming to begin active construction on the project in April 2011, with the school ready to move in by August 2012.

The project is a bit behind schedule, said DeBruyn.

“We had hoped to be starting the hiring process for the architect at the beginning of December,” he said last Wednesday.

“So we’re at least a couple weeks behind.

“It’s to be expected I suppose. It is a complicated project and we have a large committee and it’s not surprising that we have some differences of opinion and discussions that occur.”

The committee is still aiming to have the

new school open for the 2012/13 school year.

A separate project, to demolish the existing school, will likely take place during the summer of 2013.

The committee is budgeting an additional $2 million for this demolition.

There are two possible locations for the new school – either to the north or the south of the existing school.

Even though construction will take place very close to the existing school, there won’t be too much of a disruption, said DeBruyn.

“Without question, it’s going to cause some operational challenges for the school,” he said.

“But I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact on regular classroom activities.”

As a departure from an earlier draft, the new requirement specification includes a multi-use room.

This room could be used for phys-ed but a dividing will open this space up to the cafeteria, creating a larger auditorium space and overflow for the cafeteria.

The committee decided to do this rather than putting a stage in the gym, as is the case with the current school and often presents challenges.

There have also been some radical changes to the library.

“Libraries in the conventional sense, as book repositories, are becoming a bit obsolete,” said DeBruyn.

“There’s a tendency away from print publications towards more digital information and things like that.

“Some schools simply don’t have them anymore.”

There will be books in the new FH Collins library, but it will be equally focused on computers and electronic media.

“So there was a lot of discussion about how our new library would accommodate both the old and the new.”

The committee has also made the decision to retain the high school’s existing shop, which was in fairly good shape and would have been very expensive to rebuild, said DeBruyn.

The new school will also include a First Nations language classrooms and an elders lounge.

The school will be built as energy efficient and green as possible, being built up to LEED standards.

The committee is now investigating a geothermal heating system.

“I like the idea and on a new building it makes a lot of sense,” said DeBruyn.

“But there will be a high up front costs and operational costs aren’t exactly zero.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com