By Craig Albrecht
For Westwind Weekly News
School isn’t always front of mind with summer holidays just days old. Westwind School Division and the Town of Magrath can’t be blamed for looking ahead with great expectations, however, considering the dollars and time invested – not to mention the rewards which lie ahead.
Although a major modernization of the Magrath School was announced in early 2014, it was only recently the project received final approval from the provincial government.
“When the announcement is first made everyone gets excited thinking that dirt is going to be moved the next day,” said Lance Miller, Westwind School Board trustee for Magrath.
The reality is quite different, he adds, with design plans, budgets and other details all in need of approval before the first shovel ever hits the ground.
“We appreciate the administration and their hard work in getting through all these approvals and our current government for being able to work through the process and get us our final approval so we can get started,” said Miller.
Although the Magrath modernization had earlier been listed as a government priority, board chairman Ron Fromm admits to some anxious moments with all the “doom and gloom” leading up to the unveiling of the provincial budget. And then there was the election.
“The NDP government could easily have said, ‘we’re not honoring anything the old PC government did,’ ” he said. “So just the fact that it still got the nod – whether that came from bureaucrats or the government – is really exciting.”
Mayor Russ Barnett said Town Council and Magrath residents are excited about the potential for the modernization and Career Technology Studies (CTS) Centre to promote economic development and additional educational opportunities and career paths for students.
“The out-of-the-box thinking and vision of the stakeholders has been exceptional to pull this project together. The formation of these unexpected partnerships will take our town to a new level,” he said.
Barnett expressed thanks to the provincial government, Cardston County, Westwind school trustees and administration and Town Council and administration for their commitment and dedication to the project.
“Together we are building better opportunities for our future,” said the mayor.
Although the provincial government earmarked nearly $17 million for the project, extensive public consultations revealed interest in greater community access to the school. The Town of Magrath subsequently committed $2 million towards the construction of a separate, 1,000-square metre CTS facility.
That building will be used initially as classroom space for students who need to be moved so extensive renovations can be made to the rest of the school. The CTS building will also free up space within the school for an expanded library and 200-seat theatre, all of which will be open to the public.
Fromm said partnerships formed with community stakeholders were undoubtedly one of the reasons the project was approved. He praised the vision shared by all those entities and the efforts put in by the mayor and council, business officials and Westwind administrators.
“We really needed those partners to come together to ensure the success of this project in Magrath,” said Fromm. “Any time we can get partners – whether it’s communities or businesses or any other groups – interested in the education of our students, that’s a plus.”
Plans call for work on the CTS centre to begin first thing in the fall with completion scheduled for early 2016. Modernization work on the rest of the school should begin that summer.