Connaught School May Be Next Target In Regina’s Wreck-a-palooza

I went to my first school board meeting this evening. It was, dare I say… educational.

P3 Architecture principal, James Youck, came out to present three reports about school redevelopments. One dealt with the amalgamation of Glen Elm and Haultain. The second dealt with the amalgamation of Imperial and McDermid. And the final report — and as you can probably guess from the title of my post, the one I found most alarming — dealt with the rebuild (or renovation) of Connaught School.*

Seems Connaught is in pretty bad shape. According to the engineers hired by P3A, the school’s brick foundation is in very poor shape. There’s extensive water damage throughout the basement. The electrical and plumbing need to be completely replaced. It’s currently safe for students to be in it, but that won’t be the case in five to ten year’s time.

In fact things are so bad, renovating the school will cost a whopping $23,194,580. Tearing it down and building a new school on the other hand will only cost $18,880,064. That’s a $4,314,516 difference.

A lot of bake sales are going to have to be organized to cover that kind of scratch.

By comparison, renovating any of Glen Elm, Haultain, Imperial or McDermid would cost slightly less than building new. But apparently, Connaught is either right at or just past a tipping point such that salvaging it will be extremely costly.

And that will come as bad news for Cathedral residents and Connaught parents considering that during community consultations, saving the building was ranked as one of their top priorities.

Anyway, as I understand it, tonight’s meeting wasn’t held to decide the fate of any of these schools. Rather, the board was just voting to pass on funding requests to the provincial government to cover the costs of rebuilding and/or renovating them.

In the case of Glen Elm and Haultain, the recommendation seems to be to seek funding to build a new school building on the site of Glen Elm School that will accommodate both populations.** Similarly, P3 recommends in the case of Imperial and McDermid that the school board seek funding for a new build on the site of Imperial School.

With Connaught, the recommendation is more complicated. While the report points out that the community’s preferred option is to renovate and improve the current building, the consultant seems to be suggesting that the board will be better off going after funding for a new building to be constructed on the site of the current school. Or, if an entirely new site can be found, that a new Connaught school building be constructed there.

Once these reports get passed up the food chain, it’ll basically be up to the education ministry to decide how much cash it’s willing to pony up for these jobs. And that’ll determine what gets bulldozed and what gets saved. So I guess for now all we can do is wait and see.

* And yes, I find this report alarming in part because my daughter goes to Connaught. And she loves it there and will cry if she finds out they’re thinking of tearing the building down. Plus, I’m on the board of the Cathedral Area Community Assocation, so I wasn’t just a concerned parent at tonight’s meeting, I was also watching what went down so I can report back to my community association. So I’m far from a neutral observer on this story. But, hey, what do you want? I’m the only p-dogger who made it out to this shindig.

** And BTW, as this was my first school board meeting and as this is just a hastily dashed off blog post, I readily admit I may have some of the details of what went down screwy. Like, for instance, apparently this all had a lot to do with something called SA-1 funding and I’ll be buggered if I know what that is exactly. Anyway, if this post winds up becoming something for the paper, I’ll do real interviews and such over the next couple days. In the meantime, I’m hoping I can rely on Barb’s eagle eyes to catch my errors of fact. And grammar!

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

21 thoughts on “Connaught School May Be Next Target In Regina’s Wreck-a-palooza”

  1. Well, well well….they closed Athabasca school on the other side of Elphinstone last year. The school is structurally sound. In fact, I am surrounded by young families with young children. I questioned the logic when Harbour Landing may build a school and we know our population is expanding. They are now bussing the children in this area to another school. Here is an idea for a location for a school – the city could donate land from one of their urban reserve areas and take the Connaught school site in trade and develop it into a park. Happens all the time in other jurisdictions.

  2. No, Connaugh school should not be closed adn turned into a park. Cathedral has tons of young families. They do that and then they start bussing. Then the young families start to move out because there is no school. Closing inner city schools is short sighted and frankly stupid in the long term.
    Paul – Connaught is the oldest school still running in Regina I believe. It would be awful to tear it down. The RBE though has shown themselves in the past to be pretty eager to tear down old schools. They do not see the value of their heritage buildings unfortunately. Davin was on the closure list a couple of years ago and was removed (partly because of the influx of young families into Cathedral). At that time I heard rumors that they would be tearing down Connaught, building a new school and then closing Davin and sending all those kids there. Apparently running huge schools is more cost effective. Personally I would question whether or not those massive schools are what is best for all those kids (or even the majority of them). The other schools you mentioned as well as a couple of others are part of this trend. I would hate to see it happen in Cathedral. My children would be similarly crushed to lose their school (not just hte building, but their teachers, friends, etc.).

  3. Paul: thanks for the plug, but in terms of errors of fact, and the various categories of funding available from the province, you’d be better off talking to the Dept. of Ed. or to the CFO of Regina public, because there have been changes since I was on the Board (certainly there’s a new funding formula, at last)and you need to talk to folks who are au courant.
    Just a historical note: the school used to have a fancy portico on the front; it had to be removed for safety reasons several decades ago.

  4. I wonder if, when they give these alarming cost estimates, they’re basing their numbers of the swankiest, most expensive materials available? Like, how could a reno cost $23 million? Does $23 million give it another 100 years? I hate to be ‘that guy’ but these things so often sounds so skewed in favour of the ‘tear-it-down’ side.

  5. Materials costs are going up all the time, as are labour costs, and then of course there are green initiatives, accessibility requirements, improved HVAC, wiring and electronics, mould prevention, plumbing, flooding prevention, allergy avoidance, fire codes, construction codes, etc. Having just gone through a major foundation and basement renovation project myself, I can easily see how the bill can mount up. And how many corners do you want to cut in a building where children will be spending a lot of time?

  6. I’ll mention the demise of Dieppe school too.

    There is some sort of booming hub in west “Regina”,who is responsible for the hub?

    Regina? Sherwood 159 ? The province? the Canadian Federal Government?

    Get rid of another K-6 school when there are 3000+ workers on the West side ?

    SK Ed ministry is not really full of futuristic “thinkers”.

    1 idea freebie, build a collge in Pense, teach football,hockey & house / rental apartment building.

  7. Ron: people working at the hub don’t seem to be settling in the Dieppe area. I suspect that they will settle in Pense and Grand Coulee; the latter has the excellent Stewart Nicks School.

  8. Still, $23 million for a reno? Somebody better ask some questions, get some facts. Maybe that factors in projected labour and materials in the year 2020, which could be a bust.

  9. C’mon T Fresh Jr., Give them some credit.

    Maybe some salvage materials of that school (ex) bricks or anything could be reused for a future school elsewhere and reuse the Connaught school name in a future school in memory of this one when the time comes.

  10. Interesting to see Barb swan in to say how she’s not “au courant”, then merrily go on telling everyone how they are wrong. Tres chic, non?

  11. agent w – if that’s who you are – my “au courant” statement was directed to Paul in re: provincial funding for capital projects, which may have changed with the change in the education funding formula. And I didn’t tell anyone (s)he was wrong; I simply mentioned (to Talbot) factors to consider in looking at the projected figure for renovation. I additionally answered a question put by Ron. As for “swa{ning] in”, I was responding to Paul’s playful last sentence.
    Go get some sunshine and fresh air.

  12. Isn’t it curious that no matter what the condition or age of the schools in question, the recommendation is the same for all? They reported Glen Elm is structurally sound and in good shape, yet we must nonetheless build a brand new school to replace it. Would it really matter how old Connaught is or what kind of condition it is in? I think not. Looking at the pattern of recommendations, if the school were 20 years old and in fine shape, they’d still conclude new construction in a new location is the best option. There is simply no willingness to place any kind of value on the the things we already have, old or new. In bureaucratic circles this is known as “progress” while in construction and property development circles, it is known as “profit.”

  13. So long as your “play” doesn’t involve misrepresenting me and my comments, I’m good, “agent w”.
    anonymous: Your second-last statement is hyperbole, to say the least.

  14. It’s good to see you’ve read at least one book/seen one old movie, “agent w”. Now, for some real exposure to witty ripostes, try the Marx Brothers.

  15. It is time to consider a different approach to all of this, full cost accounting. If we were to look at the long term, the renovation of the current Connaught Community School would be a savings and the lowest cost. The time and money invested in the school in energy and materials, not to mention the community around it would be lost if we were to simply bulldoze it down and build anew. What will also be lost is the knowledge and value of community history invested in this building and its location. The current school is a keystone to the neighbourhood and needs to be renovated, not replaced. My further question is why was the school not kept up in the past to require a $24 Million dollar renovation?

  16. Jim, the budget tightening of the last several decades – and even this past week – forced school boards, and not just Regina Public but others as well, to choose priorities. They chose the students and staff, to the disadvantage of the buildings.

  17. Well said Barb. The building looks like hell, and is, like most of the schools in the city, run down, out of date, and been neglected in a significant way. So, what can the school board do? Keep all the schools with 110 kids or less open or try to reduce the number of buildings to maintain while getting the numbers of students per class to be consistent in all schools. Hawerluk has, what 900 kids, with 30+ per room, while Athabasca had, what 100, with some classes with 10 or 13 kids? I say right size schools and make good use of taxpayers dollars and support the teachers and students fairly accross the city. BTW, Jr. Talbot’s comments are so absurd they deserve no response.
    Jim is also a bit on the edge. Somehow i doubt the Cathedral area community would be “lost” and there would still be a school in the area. Such a fearful comment. Hey, you should run for mayor.

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