On Oct. 8, Premier Jim Prentice announced a commitment of over 263 million dollars for school projects across Alberta over the next two years. Stirling school was listed amongst the chosen modernization projects.
“We were ecstatic, the whole building was electric as everyone was huddled around computers having side room conversations about the announcement (Wednesday afternoon) from the government … We have been lobbying, presenting and showing the age of our building with our powers to be for a long time, so we are very happy,” said Stirling School’s principal Darren Mazutinec.
The Stirling School was built in 1957, with an addition added in the early ninties. It is responsible for around 300 K-12 students every year.
Portions of the original building still function as elementary classrooms.
“The 1957 wing has been functional. We’ve had kids in it ever since it was built. Furnaces, lighting and some windows… we’re obviously an old school so that would be our priority and I’m sure it’s the province’s priority as well and a big reason why our school got chosen.”
For Westwind School Division No. 74 superintendent Ken Sommerfeldt, the Stirling School modernization has been a long time coming.
“For us this is a terrific announcement. It’s been our number one capital priority of the board,” said Sommerfeldt. “We understand everybody needs new schools. We understand the priority process. We tried to position ourselves in such a way that they could see what the needs are, and we’re very grateful that they acknowledged that and made this announcement.”
Sommerfeldt said Stirling School, was built “almost completely in 1957” and aside from the Magrath School which is currently discussing its own renovations, it is the oldest school in the division. He went on to add there are a number of mechanical and structural issues with the Stirling School.
“We have a tremendous maintenance team and we have done our best to keep it together, but at some point a school outlives its life. Before we end up with health concerns and so on, this is such a great opportunity and a blessing to our community.”
There are still little details surrounding the funding announcement, and the schools must wait until further information is provided in regards to dates, timelines and budgets.
“What it looks like, from the suggestions we have so far, we will have a metropolis of schools here if we can put all the ideas I am getting together into one thing,” said an enthusiastic Mazutinec.
“ We have some ideas that are in their infant stages of their discussion that I think will benefit the whole community, hopefully, with the idea of 21st-century learning, student and staff collaboration, creating engagement with co-entrepreneurial citizens, all those things will factor into the final draft that we come up with and ask the builders to build.”
A collaborative process within the community involving all partners is the next step, said Sommerfeldt, and they will go through a Value Management to determine what the needs are for the school.
“These are decisions that are not about today, these are decisions for the next 40 years,” he said. “We want to be sure that we’ve engaged with the parents, the entire community, the school community, Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure to provide the best facility we can that will be for these kids and their (future) kids … It’s not about building it quickly, but building it right.”
Prentice also revealed that the aging St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Taber will be receiving a much needed facelift. A new middle school in West Lethbridge and a replacement for W.R. Myers High School in Taber were also part of the recent announcement.