FFHS renovations ahead of schedule: RRDSB

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Fort Frances High School (FFHS) is in the midst of a transformation. This summer, crews have been working on part one of a multi-phase renewal of the high school.

The biggest changes coming to the school in phase one are the new washrooms which will use a multiple single use (gender neutral) design.

Each toilet stall will have floor-to-ceiling walls with a lockable full door, increasing privacy and enhancing inclusivity. The communal hand-washing station will be just outside these stalls, open to the hallway.

“We believe the new design will allow all students to feel safe, comfortable, and included when using the facilities, and will improve the overall feeling of safety and acceptance,” says Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB) director of education Heather Campbell.

Travis Enge, plant operations and maintenance manager for the RRDSB, says two of the three washrooms are just getting their finishing touches.

“We knew we wouldn’t have all three of them done before the start of school,” he says. “We’re waiting for the doors and frames to come in for the individual stalls.”

Enge says he was told those parts should be in Thunder Bay today and will be up here shortly thereafter.

“So it looks like we’ll have the bottom floor bathrooms ready for use on Wednesday when students come into the school,” he says. “The second floor washrooms are still under construction, but we’re a little bit ahead of schedule.”

Enge says they didn’t initially think those washrooms would be ready until late October, but now he says he thinks they could be operational before the end of September.

To sum up, the first floor main washroom should be good to go, the second floor main washroom is just a few weeks away, while the smaller first floor northwest washroom will be a few months yet since they’ve been focusing on the other two.

During construction, there are alternative washrooms available for students to use that wouldn’t otherwise be opened to them.

Other projects in phase one include renewing some roofing, which Enge says is set to begin soon.

“They should be here any day,” he says. “Our occupants may hear a bump and a thump from time to time, but the contractors will do their best to keep things down.”

Enge says they’ll do particularly noisy projects either before or after the school day.

“We’ve done other roofing projects on schools that were operating so we don’t anticipate too many issues there,” says Enge.

He says that project will likely be ongoing until at least the end of October.

The parking lot is also undergoing asphalt repairs. Enge says the paving company may be on site this weekend.

A few of the high school’s entrances are also being replaced to ensure accessibility. The previous concrete steps have all been removed, and ramps will be in place soon.

The other change in phase one is a flooring replacement. Enge says the second floor flooring was replaced in 2017. The first floor has now been redone to match, swapping out the school’s original vinyl tile for sheet vinyl.

As part of another project, Enge says the school is also now fully air conditioned.

“We’re still doing some work on it, but we’ve got that running,” he says. “So that was a big improvement for the school as well.”

Enge says they’re working on planning for phase two of FFHS’s renewal. They’re looking to do work on project spaces like the art rooms, learning centre, food lab, and former photography development area.

Phase two will take place next summer and into next fall, much like phase one did this year. Since there’s so many projects to do, Enge says there’s no other option but to have renovations bleed into the academic year.

The school last underwent a major addition and renovation effort in 1999 to create the existing facility as it stands now.