FH Collins Secondary School will be rebuilt over the next three to four years, says Education Minister Patrick Rouble.
The replacement of Whitehorse’s oldest school will begin with the hiring of an architect to draft plans. The 2009 budget will have $400,000 set aside for this work, Rouble announced on Monday.
“I expect we’ll be very close to breaking ground in about 12 months,” said Rouble.
The total cost of the project will remain unclear until detailed plans are complete, said Rouble. But he expects the cost to exceed $25 million, he said.
This may be an understatement. Earlier estimates have put the cost of replacing the school at nearly double that amount, at $48 million.
A design advisory committee will be struck in the “very near future” to help guide and “fine-tune” the architect’s plans, said Rouble.
The committee will consist of members of the school council, school staff, Education Department officials and First Nation representatives, he said.
Its composition will be similar to that of an earlier committee that worked with consultants to decide what facilities a new FH Collins would need.
The final report, prepared for $200,000 by Winnipeg-based consultants Proactive Information Services Inc., contains few tangible details.
The new school should be both “warm” and “cool,”“cozy” and “breezy,” as well as “healthy, aromatic, textured” and “visually pleasing,” states the report.
It doesn’t get much more specific than that, other than to say the school needs a bigger shop and must not be built as a “traditional school box.”
One big question about the replacement of FH Collins remains to be answered: Where will the students who attend the school go during the 12 to 18 months it will take to demolish the old building and build a new one?
Rouble doesn’t know yet.
There will doubtless be some inconvenience, “as anybody who has renovated a house knows,” said Rouble.
Students may be sent to other schools in Whitehorse during construction, said Rouble.
Whatever decision is made, “we’ll certainly do what it takes to accommodate the needs of the students,” said Rouble.
It’s been two years since the Education Department began pondering what to do with FH Collins, which opened in 1963.
First they hired Vancouver-based Hold Fast Consultants, at a cost of $79,000, to review the state of school facilities in Whitehorse and decide whether to renovate or rebuild FH Collins.
They withheld judgment, and instead recommended that another study be done on school programming, to help understand what activities would be done in the new school. Hence the Proactive study.
In the end, the Proactive report simply referred to old engineering work, which predates either report, in concluding that FH Collins is five years past its intended life and should be replaced.
Some say this process has taken too long.
But Rouble said his department’s public consultations “will make the process a bit longer, but certainly better in the end.”
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