Niverville High School to Be Completed in Two Phases

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Feature 06
The Citizen

The new high school in Niverville is well on its way. With the plans now complete, Hanover School Division has recently announced the start of the tendering process for construction. It is anticipated that construction will begin in early March, on schedule.

If the schedule continues to hold, the new school will be open by September 2019.

“That’s one of the things we’re celebrating,” says HSD Superintendent Randy Dueck. “The biggest challenge for us, right from the very beginning, was to be able to open the school in a shorter timeframe than we’ve done in any of our previous schools.”

Dueck notes that the only part of the process that has been shortened is the time devoted to developing the architectural design. This process had to be expedited in order to meet the ever-growing demand for more classroom space in Niverville. The province has deemed the new school one its highest priorities.

“As for the building phase, we had aimed for starting construction in early March right from the get-go,” he notes. “That’s typical of what we did at Clearspring School and then SRSS, with roughly 18 months in terms of construction time. The question was, were we going to be able to do the architectural planning time within the shortened timeframe? The answer today is yes, because we have been able to get the tender out on time.”

The school division is excited about the facility that’s been designed. As previously reported, the 66,700-square-foot high school will initially serve 450 students from Grades 9 to Twelve, although it will have the capacity to expand for up to 500 students.

Two Phases
One major change since this project was first announced in 2017 is that the high school itself will be split into two construction phases.

“The first phase will include all elements of the school with the exception of the drama room, band room, and childcare facilities,” reads a press release from HSD. “School spaces not included within the first phase of construction will be completed by the spring of 2020.” 

Some residents of the community have expressed disappointment in this, but Niverville Mayor Myron Dyck wants to assure people that there’s a strong rationale for the decision.

With the town still working hard to secure funding for the Community Resource Centre (previously known as the Niverville Multiplex), to be built adjacent to the new high school, there is an opportunity to secure important grant money. Arts programs like drama and band are likely to be eligible for enhanced funding, primarily from the federal government, but those funds will only be available before construction begins. After construction has already started, it’s no longer possible to seek new grant funding. The new school’s childcare facility, previously announced and still very much part of the plan, is another area where funds could very well be available.

Therefore, the Town of Niverville requested that construction on these three elements—the drama room, band room, and childcare facility—be put on hold for a few months while the rest of the school moves forward. This will allow the necessary amount of time to apply for the grants. The town is already in the process of developing these applications.

“Things like band, which we would associate generally with the arts, is there an opportunity to increase funding?” says Mayor Dyck. “We believe that there is. Daycare. That has to do with families, so is there going to be funds available around that kind of an angle? We believe that there will. But the specifics are yet to be realized.”

The mayor adds that the term “Community Resource Centre” has been chosen specifically because research and advice from the province shows that this nomenclature will help get the federal government’s attention.

“So, Community Resource Centre, what does that mean?” Dyck says. “Well, it could mean a whole host of things. It’s a space where a community would gather. It’s not being specific. [The government] is saying, ‘Sell us,’ in many ways. So here are some of the points we’re selling. Okay, we had a gas explosion a few years ago, and we needed a warming centre. So could this space be that? We’re planning on running it on geothermal, so it could be a place that in times of emergency essentially serves as an emergency shelter. Sometimes there are these key phrases that lead them to say, ‘Yeah, okay, we need that, that’s a good thing, that’s important.’ Also, this space could be a command and control. In 1997, when we had the flood, the army came in and they were scattered throughout buildings in our community. So should we have an emergency scenario, whether it’s flooding, a tornado, whatever it might be, where we would set up our emergency measures operation? Again, that’s a community space… and obviously we’ve been able to convince the school division and the provincial government that there’s a real enough possibility of this that they were prepared to do this two-step process.”

Although this process prevents council from being too specific about what they hope to get out of their current round of grant applications, it shows a level of creative thinking that will hopefully lead to the school and the multiplex campus being broader in scope in the long run.

Dyck adds that provincial support of this campus concept has been exceptional, with MLA Shannon Martin taking a keen interest in the project.

Length of Delay Known
That said, all parties are acutely aware that the delay of the second phase will have an initial impact on the high school’s band program in particular. Superintendent Dueck says that maintaining a high-quality band program will remain a priority through this process.

“The biggest challenge for us will be the band,” says Superintendent Dueck. “That is a program that is in existence currently, and they are running band, and they have been running band for years. In fact, I attended the band Christmas concert this year. It was very good! What we’ll have to do is find an alternative location. We have a year and a half to sort that out. We’ve got a few ideas that we’re going to have to explore to see how good those ideas actually are, but that will be the biggest challenge in terms of programming, is what will we do about the band location? And how do we continue with the band program, because we will need to during the time when we’re waiting for phase two to open.”

The good news, he notes, is that the school division knows how long the delay will be, and it’s not excessive.

“An important note here is that we anticipate phase two to be completed within a year of the opening of phase one,” Dueck says. “I think they’re looking at a March 2019 date for start of phase two, so it’s right there in the tender process. It’s not like, ‘Someday we’ll get to it.’ It’s clearly articulated in there, so odds are pretty good that in September 2019 when we open phase one, phase two will already have a floor and walls and a ceiling and windows in it. And we’ll be at the point of finishing the interior of that space.”

Dueck also points out that Niverville doesn’t currently have a highly developed drama program, but this is going to change.

“We have been able to add a drama room to the new school with the understanding that we will commit staff to a drama program at that point in time,” he says. “What [will] happen is the drama program won’t start until the drama spaces are available for it.”

A similar situation exists for the planned childcare space. Although additional childcare spaces are badly in demand, it’s a program currently not offered at the school. And if Mayor Dyck’s forecasts prove true, the community will benefit from potential increases in funding.

“So we’re celebrating that we’re on schedule, we’re right on track,” Dueck says. “We will get the doors of the school open in September 2019 and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Time until next issue
Citizen Poll

Is the short-term pain of not having adequate band, drama, and childcare spaces worth the potential long-term gain of improved facilities?