Whitehorse Daily Star

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ANOTHER FACTOR DEVELOPS – The possible demise of Takhini Elementary School has entered the controversial saga of the relocation of École Whitehorse Elementary School to the Range Road area. Inset Lane Tredger, left, Currie Dixon.

Takhini Elementary School’s demolition comes into play

Demolition of Takhini Elementary School is a possibility in a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the Yukon government.

By Morris Prokop on May 26, 2023

Demolition of Takhini Elementary School is a possibility in a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by the Yukon government.

The Department of Highways and Public Works (HPW), Major Projects, has issued an RFP for consultation on the École Whitehorse Elementary School replacement.

According to the RFP on the Bid and Tenders Yukon website, the consultation overview is to “provide multi-disciplinary consultant services to analyze potential construction sites, develop a functional and spatial program for this 3-tier K-Gr7 urban school (up to 600 students), develop the new school’s design, through conceptual, schematic up to final design, provide support during the procurement for construction, and the construction administration phases, until the end of the warranty period.”

There are seven phases of the consultation part of the project. However, only Phase 1, site analysis and test fit, is currently in play for the consulting contract from the RFP.

The other phases listed are 
as follows:

• Phase 2 – Pre-design;

• Phase 3 – Conceptual design options;

• Phase 4 – Schematic design;

• Phase 5 – Detailed Design 
and Specifications;

• Phase 6 – Contractor Procurement and

• Phase 7 – Construction administration and warranty.

YG announced in June 2022 that Whitehorse Elementary will be replaced by a new school.

The proposed site for the new school was on the Takhini Educational Land Reserve, Takhini school lot 414, which contains the Takhini Elementary School and some softball diamonds.

According to the RPF, “The site analysis and test fit is intended to assess the adequacy of lot 414 for the new school’s interior and exterior program elements.”

The consultant’s report would include a site plan noting:

• Property lines;

• Adjacent building and streets;

• Relevant topographic features;

• Green areas;

• Drainage Infrastructure and

• Prevailing winds and sun exposure.

The RHP also states that “If the findings of the analysis show that demolishing the Takhini Elementary School is the optimal approach, or one of the preferred approaches for lot 414 to be adequate for the new school, YG may add the demolition design and administration work into the subsequent contract.”

Despite the Star’s concerted efforts to obtain an interview from someone in HPW this month, the department has not made anyone available.

Instead, it sent responses to questions via email – and did not comment on whether Takhini school could be under the axe.

Instead, it said the exact location of the new school on the Takhini Education Land Reserve has yet to be determined.

“As more details related to location options on the reserve are determined, the Department of Education will be working with the First Nation School Board, Softball Yukon, the Project Advisory Committee, the City of Whitehorse and community to determine the best plan moving forward.

“An assessment of the Takhini Education Land Reserve conditions (available area, topography, drainage, existing infrastructure, etc.) is necessary before finalizing the location of the new school.”

When asked whether a traffic study of the Takhini area has been done, or is planned, HPW pointed out that a traffic study is outlined as a requirement by the Consultant within the RFP (in Phase 2).

HPW added, “As plans advance for the construction of the new school, the Department of Education will be working closely with the City of Whitehorse to identify and mitigate potential traffic impacts that could arise.”

The original deadline to submit proposals was June 8. HPW advised that the RFP “will be posted for 32 calendar days which follows the Government of Yukon’s standard procurement requirements.

“The tender was posted on May 11 and has been extended to June 15.”

The Star also requested an update from YG regarding meeting with Softball Yukon.

A cabinet spokesperson responded, referring to Education Minister Jeanie McLean: “On April 26, minister McLean wrote to Softball Yukon and Sport Yukon acknowledging the importance of the existing property and the positive impacts that both organizations make in our community.

“The minister explained that the project is in planning phase, next steps, and that considerations on the broader community such as traffic flow and social and economic factors will be considered as the project moves from planning to implementation.

“She concluded by saying she was happy to meet with and hear from officials in Whitehorse’s sporting community.”

The spokesperson advised that a face-to-face meeting was held May 15 among Softball Yukon, Sport Yukon, the deputy ministers of Education and of Community Services, and other relevant staff.

According to the spokesperson, “Departmental officials reiterated the points made in minister McLean’s letter, and heard from both organizations about the makeup of their memberships, the nature of their use of the Takhini Educational Reserve lands, and other thoughts and ideas.

“A commitment was made to continue dialogue and to prioritize the scheduling of meetings with minister (Richard) Mostyn and minister McLean and both organizations in the near future.

“The meeting was positive, with a productive back-and-forth dialogue between the Government of Yukon and both sporting organizations.

“A commitment was made to continue the dialogue and to schedule future meetings. The Department of Community Services committed to working with Softball Yukon and Sport Yukon on an ongoing basis about their future needs depending on where the school is ultimately placed, and the Government of Yukon will continue to work with both organizations to ensure that community members have access to suitable, conveniently-located sporting infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, NDP education critic Lane Tredger said, “What stood out to me is that they’re looking now at the possibility of demolishing Takhini Elementary as well.”

Tredger has concerns about the approach the government is taking regarding elementary schools in Whitehorse.

“It’s clear that they don’t really have a plan for what they’re doing with elementary schools and replacements,” Tredger said.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that they’re making it up as they’re going along. And we don’t really know what’s going to happen, and I don’t actually think they know what’s going to happen either,” they said.

“It’s pretty frustrating for people who are trying to put a lot of effort to try to share their values and what’s important to them about schools to know that this is kind of being done in such a haphazard way.”

Regarding the potential of demolishing Takhini Elementary, Tredger said, “Right now, we really have no clue what’s happening … we were told before that Whitehorse Elementary would be replaced on the same site as Takhini but not – or as a separate school on the same lot as Takhini.

“And now it sounds like that’s maybe not the plan. So it’s just a lot of confusion for everyone.

“And I think what was really frustrating, people have really brought forward so many concerns about the moving of Whitehorse Elementary,” Tredger added.

The MLA tabled more than 50 residents’ letters in the legislature.

“People kept being told that ‘OK, we’re gonna do the survey …’ when people went to the open houses to do the survey, they were told, ‘well, that’s actually outside of the scope. You can’t talk about that here.’

“It just feels like the whole thing is kind of being cobbled together minute by minute and no one has a plan and no one really knows what’s happening.”

Tredger also questioned how the department would accommodate the 142 students at Takhini Elementary if their school is torn down.

“One of the suggestions people had for Whitehorse Elementary was, ‘could it be rebuilt on the same site and the students could go somewhere else for a year or two?’ And we were told that was impossible.

“So now maybe it could happen. It’s just really unclear.”

Any plan for Takhini Elementary School would have to involve the First Nations School Board, since the school now falls under that board.

“I don’t know what sort of conversations they’ve had with them about that,” said Tredger. “I would certainly hope they’d be central to any conversation happening.”

Opposition Leader Currie Dixon said Tuesday he has three concerns regarding the RFP.

“The RFP creates a whole new set of questions for us.

“First of all, the RFP includes a request for a consultant to provide a high level site analysis to determine whether or not this lot – the Takhini Elementary reserve lot in the Takhini subdivision – is adequate for a new school the size of a replacement for Whitehorse Elementary.

“That seems like work that should have been done before the decision was made about whether or not to locate the school there.”

Next, Dixon pointed out, “the RFP also contemplates the possible demolition of Takhini Elementary. So that raises questions about what will happen with those students. It raises questions about what it means for the capital planning initiative that the government has underway currently.

“And so again, this raises additional questions about all of the government’s planning on this and whether or not they are jumping the gun in this decision.”

Dixon reiterated, “I certainly wasn’t aware that they were contemplating the demolition of Takhini Elementary school in this process as well, but it seems from this RFP that’s the case.”

As well, Dixon said, the RFP also says “if that lot is deemed not adequate, then the consultant should provide analysis of other potential sites.

“And that, of course, is news to us because so far, what we’ve heard from the minister is they were not willing to look at other sites. We think that’s a good thing … we have been pushing the government to look at other sites. So we’re glad to see that but we are a bit surprised because it contradicts what the minister has told us so far.”

Dixon added, “I obviously want to see more robust consultation, particularly with the sport community, and a better understanding of what this is going to mean for the sport community.

“Obviously, the softball community in particular is going to be affected by this, and it’s pretty clear to me that the potential of a new school on that site would certainly interfere with some of the most well-used sport and recreation infrastructure in the territory.”

According to HPW, as of April, there were 472 students at Whitehorse Elementary and 142 students at Takhini Elementary.

According to the RPF, the replacement school will be classified as “three-tier” and accommodate between 425 and 600 students.

The estimated cost of the project listed in the RFP is $45 million to $55 million, not including the cost of consulting. According to HPW, consulting costs cannot be confirmed until the contract has been awarded.

The estimated consultant contract commencement date is July.

The Phase 1 site analysis and test fit date is July to August.

The first six phases of the consulting would carry through to the fall/winter of 2024.

Comments (1)

Up 10 Down 3

Carole Bookless on May 31, 2023 at 11:51 am

My son is an alumnus of Takhini Elementary. I am 20 year teacher that lived in Whitehorse for 15 years before moving to Juneau for work. I am speechless that YTG is considering demolishing Takhini to move Whitehorse’s only downtown elementary school (granted it has morphed into French Immersion) to its place. Schools are not just educational student mills. They are anchors for the community. So many community activities use schools for activities such as sports, youth groups and adult social/cultural events. It doesn’t make sense to move a neighborhood school out of their neighborhood and move a different neighborhood’s school into someone else’s neighborhood. Why abandon an opportunity to enhance existing community by building a new, better Whitehorse Elementary onsite, to instead rip two community schools from their foundations?

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