Architectural design aims to integrate school into re-greened area in the Donovan
The 28,000-square-foot school will be built on 5.2 hectares of land off Frood Road that the city is selling the school board. It will replace the aging St. David School property on Jean Street, a 60-year-old building the province designated as too costly to repair. As a result, it agreed to fund the new facility.
Public access to a walking trail on the property will be maintained. The trail runs parallel to a stream that drains into a wetland, which will be preserved under the board's plans for the school.
Before construction, the board will have to conduct a traffic impact study and extend the sidewalk on the west side of the property to ensure kids walking to and from school will be safe.
Speaking at the Oct. 29 planning committee meeting, Paul Bascomb, the city's director of planning, said environmental concerns will be addressed as part of the construction process.
"There are two wetlands on the site that connect into a small watercourse that eventually drains into a culvert under Frood Road," Baskcomb said. "The (school board) has indicated they don't intend to build near" the watershed.
The other major concern was the fate of thousands of trees that were planted on the property in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the city's re-greening efforts. The development will have a minimal impact on the trees and the design of the school aims to maximize the number of trees in the area.
"The preliminary land-use concept prepared by Yallowega Belanger Architecture indicates that it's their intention to make the land reclamation history an integral part of the design," Baskcomb said.
A public meeting was held for residents in the area on Oct. 2, where the board detailed its plans for the new school.
"And our understanding is that the presentation was well-received," Bascomb said, adding no objections to the project have been filed with the planning department.
Amber Salach, associate at Yallowega Belanger Architecture, said the Frood Road site was chosen because it allowed for a school design that emphasized the importance of environmental sustainability.
"We want to use the school and the site almost as a teaching model," Salach said. "It can be a tool for students to learn about sustainability ... Whether it's using the marsh and all the wildlife in it, the species of trees — that landscape can be a teaching tool."
With that in mind, the design integrates the school into the rocks in the area, rather than requiring extensive blasting to remove the natural rock, she said.
"This site really lends itself to that. And, as architects and as a school board, we're really excited to utilize a site like this."
There's also 4,000 square feet being dedicated to community partnerships, she said, allowing area clubs to become part of the school.
"Whether it's the Best Start Club, Myths and Mirrors — partnerships that already exist with the school board will be integrated into this school."
The school's large Aboriginal population will also be reflected in the design, Salach said, with outdoor spaces taking Native culture into consideration.
"We're looking at healing circles and healing gardens on the site (and) outdoor classrooms spaces."
St. David houses 200 students from the Donovan, the Flour Mill and Louis Street areas. 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.
The school board purchased the land from the city last summer in exchange for $232,000 and several vacant school board-owned properties.
If all goes well, the school should be completed in 2014.