Dawn Wemigwans said she's absolutely thrilled her inner-city school will soon receive a new home.
The Sudbury Catholic District School Board received just under $6 million in provincial funding last year to replace St. David Catholic Elementary School.
The school, located on Jean Street in the Donovan, is home to 200 students from the Donovan, the Flour Mill and Louis Street areas.
“Oh my gosh, my students deserve this and so much more,” Wemigwans, the school's principal, said.
She said a shiny new building will match the school's “spirit and spunk.” St. David does its best to serve its students, many of whom come from low-income families, and shares space with many community agencies, Wemigwans said.
“We have tremendous school spirit and amazing teachers, and the staff is unbelievable.”
Denis Faucher, the school board's manager of facility services, said St. David, which is about 60 years old, was declared prohibitive to repair by the province in 2006.
This means the cost to repair the building is at least 65 per cent of its replacement cost.
The board then submitted a business case for building a new school to the province, and learned in May 2011 it was receiving funding to do so.
“The year of the construction of the school speaks a lot on the expected condition,” Faucher said.
“That particular school was built in the 1950s. It has basically exhausted its use. We have a lot of repairs that would be needed to upgrade the school to today's standards.”
Among the laundry list of problems he lists with the current St. David building is a boiler system at the end of its life, an outdated ventilation system, windows which need replacement, a lack of accessibility for those with disabilities, a lack of parking and a small play area entirely made of concrete.
Oh my gosh, my students deserve this and so much more.
principal of St. David Catholic Elementary School
This is in contrast to what he envisions for the new building. The new St. David will be a one-storey building, so it will be accessible to everyone, and would have the latest amenities.
“The design will be blended into nature,” Faucher said. “We're working with the existing landscaping. It will not be a traditional yard with acres of granular. It will be more of a natural play area.”
Unlike the current St. David, which educates children from junior kindergarten to Grade 8, the new St. David will only go up to Grade 6.
Grade 7 and 8 students from the school's current catchment area will instead be sent to St. Benedict or St. Charles.
The new school will be located on vacant city-owned land on Frood Road, next to the MCTV building and across the street from Victory Park. The site is located less than a kilometre from the school's current building.
The school board purchased the land from the city this summer in exchange for a payment of $232,000 and several vacant school board-owned properties.
Faucher said there was some concern about the project from the city's Vegetation Enhancement Technical Advisory Committee (VETAC), which had planted trees on the land more than 20 years ago.
However, the school board has designed the school in such a way that it's keeping the number of trees which will have to be cut to a minimum, he said.
The school board will also ensure the community still has access to a path leading to a nearby marsh.
Faucher said the school board is due to appear before the city's planning committee Oct. 29 as it attempts to have the property rezoned.
As part of that application, the school board is holding a neighbourhood meeting about the project at St. David starting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2.
“We'll explain our plan to the neighbourhood, and in turn we will talk about the location of the school, and also the rezoning application that has been proposed to the city.”
If all goes well, tenders for the project will go out in April, with construction taking place from June 2013 to July 2014, Faucher said.
It may be difficult, however, to build the school for the money allocated by the province, he said.
“We are going through a rezoning, and we need to look at what we will be requested to do under the site plan condition agreement,” Faucher said.
“The site itself is rugged. It has definitely lots of rock, and it could be challenging to the budget, bringing services there and addressing landscaping.”