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DYS eyed to get bulk of funding to improve schools

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In receiving additional funding through the Ministry of Education’s School Condition Improvement (SCI) program, the finance committee of the Rainy River District School Board shared its recommendations for the money with trustees at last night’s regular monthly meeting.

“The funding was given to all school boards to address renewal needs and reduce the facility condition index,” explained Travis Enge, manager of plant operations and maintenance for the board, noting that is what the ministry uses to assess the condition of school buildings.

“This money is there to address all of our facilities,” he remarked.

However, $3,888,241 was recommended to be put towards renewing the existing Donald Young School gym section.

The Emo school currently is seeing a new classroom wing being built due to the facility having been deemed “prohibitive to repair” back in 2003.

But the section housing the gym, two classrooms, and a kitchen area was not set to be addressed at this time.

“We had an engineering and architectural study done of the existing gym area and we found it is structurally in excellent shape,” said Enge.

He noted while some upgrades are needed, the bones of the facility are in good shape.

“And with this extra money coming to us, instead of building a new gym eventually, we’ll fix this one up,” he added.

Enge said the renovation would give the section of the school a new exterior while the building envelop would be upgraded to today’s standards.

The interior would be upgraded to make it fully-accessible, such as widening some doors, adding an accessible way to use the stage, and expanding washrooms.

The two classrooms in that section also would be renovated and the kitchen area spruced up.

“The idea is to renew that area to suit the school’s needs for the next 25 years,” stressed Enge, though adding it all would depend on the ministry’s approval.

The report also brought forward information to the board regarding the small but steady increase in enrolment at DYS.

“It is nearing 100 percent utilization,” Enge said. “We are looking at all of our options to address the enrolment pressures there.

“We haven’t completely filled the school yet, but we just want to be aware and prepared so that we can act in a timely matter if we do exceed the capacity of the school.”

Enge noted as portables always are a last resort, he was asked to determine some cost estimates to increase the gross floor area of the facility by adding on a couple of classrooms if the need arises.

Meanwhile, the rest of the funding will be used at other district schools to continue regular minor maintenance, including at Mine Centre, McCrosson-Tovell, Nestor Falls, Robert Moore, J.W. Walker, Sturgeon Creek, and Crossroads.

At Atikokan High School and North Star Community School there, the finance committee recommended initiating a modified accommodation review process to consider the consolidation of the schools into a new Early Years-Grade 12 facility, pending Ministry of Education funding approval.

More information on that will be presented at a future finance committee meeting.

At Fort Frances High School, the committee recommended investing SCI and School Renewal funding into the school to lower its facility condition index.

Finally, for Rainy River High School and Riverview School there, the committee recommended the board amend its plan for a new consolidated K-12 school in Rainy River and instead move forward with business case submissions for Options 1 and 2 to the Ministry of Education for funding for a K-12 consolidation with a renovated RRHS.

Enge explained consolidation of the two schools was approved a year ago, but didn’t receive funding for a new school.

“The capital branch of the Ministry of Education said the two facilities are in reasonably good condition and to look at using one of those facilities to suit our needs,” he explained.

“Since then, we’ve gone back and studied Rainy River High School,” Enge noted.

“It’s large enough to house students from both schools.

“We came up with a business plan for the next time there is consolidation funding to apply for,” Enge said.

He doesn’t know when that will be but they wanted to be prepared for when the funding window opens.

“We would still do a lot of renewal work,” Enge stressed. “We would renovate the interior and exterior.”

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