Whitehorse Daily Star

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Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Yukon Party Housing Critic Wade Istchenko

Schools set for improvements or replacement

Seven Yukon schools are being considered for renovation or replacement, according to Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

By Taylor Blewett on November 22, 2017

Seven Yukon schools are being considered for renovation or replacement, according to Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.

These are Ecole Whitehorse Elementary, Selkirk Elementary School, Takhini Elementary School, Wood Street Centre, Christ the King Elementary School, Kluane Lake School and St. Elias Community School.

“We are currently undertaking a comprehensive planning process to address future school construction and/or renovations to existing school buildings to make sure that every student has a safe and appropriate place for learning,” McPhee told the legislature Nov. 9.

She listed the schools under consideration in a legislative return Nov. 14.

“The government is working on a long-term plan to spread the cost of school upgrades and replacements over a reasonable period of time,” it reads.

According to the return, some of these schools are being considered for inclusion in the Department of Education’s Five Year Capital Plan, which is expected to be approved in the spring of 2018.

Maxine White, a Department of Education spokesperson, said the government is aiming to replace or upgrade one school approximately every three years.

Thus, one or two of the listed schools might be included in the Five Year Capital plan, leaving the others to have repairs or replacement planned down the road.

The age of the school buildings determined what schools were included on the “revitalization” – renovation or replacement – list, McPhee told reporters Monday.

That’s why the school in Ross River, plagued by ongoing problems with permafrost, is not included. The school opened in 2001.

“As a result, it doesn’t live on a revitalization list of schools that are 40, 50 years old,” McPhee said.

Rather, it’s been identified as an urgent need that demands more immediate attention, White confirmed.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn told the legislative assembly Tuesday that while “the engineers dispatched to Ross River have said that this school is a safe building — a safe structure for the staff and students,” the government is preparing to take action to deal with the challenges presented by the permafrost it’s built on.

The government will monitor the school’s stability over the winter, Mostyn said, then look at levelling and re-freezing the ground.

On Tuesday, Yukon Party housing critic Wade Istchenko brought up another school absent from the list – The Nelnah Bessie John School in Beaver Creek.

Why, he asked, is it not being considered for renovation or replacement when it’s the same age as the Kluane Lake School in Destruction Bay?

It was also identified in a government-commissioned seismic screening in 2010 as one of eight Yukon schools at medium to high seismic risk. The other seven schools are on current revitalization list.

The Education minister did not provide an answer, but White confirmed that Beaver Creek is another school identified by the government as an “urgent need.”

Officials have been working with the Beaver Creek community and the White River First Nation, she said, to plan for the school’s revitalization.

McPhee has also told the legislature that the government is looking at expanding the criteria considered in planning school revitalization.

Beyond just age, White said the government is now taking into account schools’ overall conditions, seismic issues, programming requirements, community needs, and enrolment projections to determine how and where school repairs and replacements fit into capital planning.

McPhee has not revealed which schools are being prioritized for revitalization.

“The work is actually ongoing as we speak,” she told local media Monday.

She did confirm that until a comprehensive plan for the schools has been determined, she was not looking to vacate or close any Yukon schools.

Comments (6)

Up 5 Down 2

Tater on Nov 24, 2017 at 10:20 am

A lot more could be done if YTG wasn't building a Taj Mahal for a certain elite group in Riverdale. 27 million, an absolute misappropriation of taxpayers dollars!

Up 1 Down 1

I A Daniels on Nov 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Jack Hulland Elementary should be at the top of any list. It is a disaster waiting to happen with a single person width hallway and poorly configured additions. In case of a fire or emergency the exits are choke points. The staff and children have tolerated this situation for years, complaints have been made and no action has been forthcoming.

Up 2 Down 1

Paulette Morrice on Nov 23, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Whitehorse Elementary and Selkirk having asbestos is a great possibility so renovation will take time and be costly.
I agree, something has to be done. I sub most of the schools and have been here 37 years.

Up 2 Down 0

Just Say'in on Nov 23, 2017 at 12:32 pm

So where is all this money going to come from now??? Oh Ok I forgot.

Up 5 Down 0

New school for 3-5 students? on Nov 22, 2017 at 4:23 pm

I would think that the priority should be schools with more kids. When Mr. Ischencko brings up Nelnah Bessie John School, I'm sure he realizes his own community's school has more students. I believe N.B.J.S. only has 3-5 students. Better would be to have a building that can be a shared space.

Up 7 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Nov 22, 2017 at 3:06 pm

How about the next new schools built are designed with a 100 year plus lifespan rather than the disposable ones to date. It's the green and cost effective thing to do. And how about when we see these steady construction and design fails when building government infrastructure that we start to see heads roll and the taxpayer off the hook for once.

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