School closure process moves ahead

Rainy River District School Board trustees discussed Tuesday night where students would go if J.W. Walker was expanded, as well as possible renovation costs at Alberton Central at a committee of the whole meeting.
But in the end, they recommended the school closure process continue.
The board officially received reports recommending closure of Alexander MacKenzie and Sixth Street schools, as well as pleas from parents not to shut Alberton Central, back on Dec. 18.
At that time, there was no consensus on whether they should close all three schools and expand J.W. Walker.
But at last night’s committee of the whole meeting, trustees decided to continue with the school closure process and put forth an “intent to close” motion, which will be voted on at the Feb. 5 board meeting.
If the board passes the motion, it then would consult with the schools themselves and parents before making a final decision, likely in May or June.
Parents at Alberton Central argued their school should not have been placed on the school closure list. Murray Quinn, superintendent of plant and maintenance for the board, was asked to explain exactly why the school was being considered.
Quinn said a number of conditions, including the state of the grounds, roofing, flooring, lighting levels, and air quality, were examined before the school was earmarked for closure.
“Plumbing in that facility, not only what you can physically see in the washrooms but also in the crawl space, has to be upgraded in the next few years,” he noted.
“Plumbing in that facility is 42 years old,” Quinn said after the meeting. “The washrooms are in very, very poor conditions.”
Quinn also said current ceilings and doors would not meet today’s fire codes. Ceilings would require at least two layers of gyproc to be installed in every classroom and doors would have to be replaced.
“Can we keep the school open as it is? The answer is yes,” Quinn said. “But if we do any major renovations, the entire building would have to be brought up to code.”
Bringing the school up to current fire and safety codes could cost an estimated $675,640, Quinn told the committee of the whole.
Even those minor repairs needed immediately which would not require the entire building to be brought up to code, such as new washroom facilities, would cost an estimated $25,000.
“That is still a substantial cost even for a minor upgrade and there’s no guarantee that something else might go wrong,” Quinn warned.
In addition to discussing the cost of renovating Alberton Central, much of last night’s meeting centered around where the students would be placed should they go ahead with the plan to expand J.W. Walker.
Students at Alexander MacKenzie School would continue on as usual through the construction period, Superintendent of Education Terry Ellwood told trustees.
That means students currently in grade three would remain in Alexander MacKenzie next year instead of graduating to grade four at J.W. Walker.
Graduating students from Sixth Street School, about 20-25 kids, probably would be sent to Robert Moore School, as they are now, pending the expansion work.
Where the change would occur, he explained, would be for students at J.W. Walker and those graduating from Alberton who normally move on to Walker.
“Where the displacement occurs is for kids presently attending J.W. Walker because we would probably want to empty that school out during the construction period,” he noted.
In such a case, Ellwood said those students would be housed in Robert Moore School.
“After talking to the school councils, we found that if the students are displaced, they wanted to be grouped together as a school within a school,” he added.
That means that instead of integrating the displaced students into classes at Robert Moore, they would have their own separate classes and operate separately—though under the same roof—until they returned to the expanded facility.
Another possible solution Ellwood presented was to have Alberton Central offer grade seven until construction ended, although he said that would mean having the school teach a grade it hasn’t had in a few years.