A new Cedar Elementary remains at the top of the priority list for School District 72. However, the decision rests in the hands of the province.
Each year school districts submit their top capital projects in various categories to the Ministry of Education to qualify for funding. At the May 28 board meeting, secretary-treasurer Kevin Patrick presented the trustees with the school district’s latest five-year capital plan priorities, which the board later approved.
Cedar, estimated at a little over $17 million, is one of the top priorities for the school district. In fact, it is the sole district item being submitted under the province’s Replacement Program.
“We have one priority,” Patrick said. “The cost to replace that school is substantial.”
School replacement is only one program category, but as replacements are more ambitious projects, the ministry does not approve many each year.
“It’s not as easily approved a process as some of the other projects,” Patrick said. “Sometimes, it’s just about waiting for it to be approved.”
The other top priorities are a seismic upgrade of Penfield Elementary ($3,880,000); a two-room expansion of Ocean Grove Elementary ($2,150,000); a boiler replacement at École Willow Point ($167,000); and a playground replacement at Georgia Park Elementary ($90,000).
“We hope that we can get funded for some of our number one requests,” Patrick said.
The ministry funds projects under several different programs. For the Seismic Mitigation Program, along with the top priority of Penfield, the district has plans to upgrade the Robron, Surge Narrows, Cedar Annex and Oyster River buildings, though these have yet to be costed. Trustee John Kerr asked about Oyster River’s presence on the list as it is no longer operating. Patrick responded that the building is still being used by a tenant, which means the ministry wants it included for seismic upgrades.
“If there are people working in that building, then they do want it identified,” he said.
Under the Expansion Program, along with Ocean Grove, the district has a two-room expansion identified at Ripple Rock Elementary on the list for $2,150,000.
Along with the boiler replacement at Willow Point, the school has a half dozen School Enhancement Program projects identified, with costs for each running between $120,000 and $390,500. These include replacing roof sections at Quadra Elementary and Timberline Secondary, other boilers at Carihi Secondary and Ripple Rock and a woodshop ventilation upgrade at Southgate Middle. The boiler replacement proposals are also listed in the Carbon Neutral Capital Program category.
“We have taken the strategy in the past of putting it on both just to remind or point out to the ministry that this is a priority for us,” he said.
Joining Georgia Park on the Playground Equipment Program list this year are Pinecrest Elementary and Sayward School. The amount for each is $90,000.
“We do have other replacement priorities,” Patrick said. “As these things get approved, we keep moving things up.”
School districts need to submit their plan to the ministry by June 30 each year, with the ministry usually making a decision by the following spring. The list is updated each year, and items not funded can be rolled into the subsequent year’s plan.
“This is actually proposals for projects that are well into the future,” Patrick said. “The advantage of that … is it gives the ministry a lot of time to consider the proposals.”
Kerr also asked whether some projects would be eligible for grants, citing an example of grants from Fortis in the past for boiler replacement work.
“Anywhere there’s a chance for a grant, we will be applying for it,” Patrick said. “It’s hard to say whether we will get them or not. We have qualified for some but not for all.”