NLSD seeks funding to conduct feasibility studies

By Phil Ambroziak

The Northern Lights School Division (NLSD) wants to ensure its educational facilities receive a passing grade.

That’s why, during their regular meeting earlier this month, NLSD board members carried a series of motions, all of which approve making a request for funding from the provincial government. The money would be used to conduct feasibility studies at five schools in northern communities. Among the schools on the list are Valley View School in Beauval and Twin Lakes Community School in Buffalo Narrows. According to NLSD officials, these schools, along with the other schools included in the motions, are in need of some sort of physical upgrade or construction under the division’s ageing buildings assessment.

“The feasibility studies are needed to determine exactly what the deficiencies at the various schools may be,” explained NLSD superintendent of facilities Frank Burnouf. “We have done some initial studies of the 23 schools we handle and, about once a year, we go through them all to get an idea of what’s needed.”

Burnouf went on to note, however, funding from the Saskatchewan government would allow the NLSD to hire a consultant to thoroughly look at each school and come up with a detailed list of what improvements are needed where.

“He or she might come in and say there can only be so many students per square foot or determine a leaky roof needs repair – things like that,” he said.

Burnouf also said funding (when not requested) is quite often reserved for schools with overcrowding issues, adding “if your school is not overcrowded, they (province) often won’t look at it.”

“These schools aren’t necessarily overcrowded and we probably could have hired our own consultant, but that would be like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” Burnouf added. “If we can get provincial funding to assist with this step, all the better. We’re making the request now because the province traditionally approves its budget in April. This gives us enough time to put ourselves on their radar when determining how they’re going to spend provincial dollars.”

While various additions to the schools over the years made it difficult for Burnouf to determine exactly how old each building is, he believes the majority were built in the 1970s and ‘80s.

“There obviously has been renovations here and there over the years, but I believe the school in Buffalo Narrows could use a heating plant – if we were calling the shots we’d pay for it,” he stated. “But, the government should determine how much funding is available come April and by May or June we should find out who is getting what.”

Twin Lakes Community School principal Jackie Durocher, who confirmed her school does indeed date back to the early ‘70s, said she hasn’t had too much involvement in terms of the NLSD’s efforts to secure funding. She did note, however, she would like to see her school receive a bigger gymnasium.

“Our gym is fairly small for the number of students we have,” she said.

Twin Lakes currently boasts close to 300 students and, as a community school, also allows access to the gymnasium by members of the public.

“The gym would definitely be our number one priority,” she reiterated. “This way, everyone would benefit.”

In Beauval, Valley View principal Arlene Hanson explained how some members of the school community council would like to see a cafeteria set up at the school.

“That would be nice,” she said. “We’d also like to see the development of an outdoor track.”

Hanson also noted work to remodel the school’s kitchen and shop is ongoing, projects that are already improving the facility.

Valley View School is close to 50 years old and currently serves 237 students.

The other schools slated to benefit if provincial funding is secured include facilities in Cumberland House, Pinehouse Lake and Sandy Bay.

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