By Rosalind Russell – It has been a long time in coming, but construction is underway for a new double school in Espanola. The new Sacred Heart School under the authority of the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board will house students from JK to Grade Eight while the new French Catholic section under the auspices of the Conseil scolaire catholique du Nouvel-Ontario will combine École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph and École secondaire catholique Franco-Ouest providing education to students from JK to Grade 12.
Sacred Heart students are currently housed at the former AB Ellis Public School site. École élémentaire catholique Saint-Joseph are still housed in a standalone school building and École secondaire catholique Franco-Ouest is currently leasing space at the combined Espanola High School/AB Ellis Public School site.
On May 4th, both boards hosted public meetings at two locations simultaneously, Sacred Heart Catholic School, which was presented in English, and Ecole Saint-Joseph in French.
The board’s director of education, Rose Burton Spohn, provided an overview of the history leading up to construction.
“Back in 2004, the Ministry of Education assessed Sacred Heart and in 2007 found it to be prohibitive to repair,” explained Burton Spohn. “It was announced in 2009, that the Ministry would provide $3.9 million in funding to demolish most of the school, but construct an addition. However, that wasn’t financially feasible.”
In 2009, a project steering committee was formed and toured six schools in Ontario to gain new ideas in school design, and a year later, in 2010, both boards agreed to collaborate on a new joint school. In 2011, the boards reviewed a new design at a cost of $12.3 million. However, the cost was $320 per square foot and the Ministry was only providing $194 per square foot in funding.
“In 2012, the architect redesigned the school to be one storey and include daycare spaces, but eliminated the hub area, second special education classroom, Native studies classroom, culture room and music room to meet provincial construction benchmarks. However, that was not to be either.”
Spohn says there was movement later that same year when the Ministry announced priority funding for joint capital projects and agreed to provide $18 million in 2014, but, again, to meet government benchmarks, about 3,500 square feet was removed including library, gymnasium and mechanical rooms.
Finally in 2017, the government agreed to $23.1 million, but all tenders exceeded Ministry funding. However, the government agreed to top it off and the project was finalized this year at $25.2 million with the contract awarded to Sudbury’s Build North.
Following her presentation, architect director, Franco Pastore of Integrated Design (IDEA) architectural firm out of Sault Ste. Marie, walked everyone through the actual design concept.
“The new school building will be located at the Sacred Heart / St Louis de France church site,” explained Pastore. “It will contain the new schools as well as the English Daycare, the French Daycare and the Hub– Family Centre.”
Pastore says the new structure will be able to house around 800 students.
“The new school has a combined student load of approximately 752: HSCDSB School – 271 pupils (includes JK/SK to Grade 8); CSCNO School – 363 pupils (includes JK/SK to Grade 8 and Grades 9 to 12); HSCDSB Daycare – 49; CSCNO Daycare – 49 and Best Start HUB Daycare – 20.”
Pastore adds the total building area will have a footprint of 304,720 square feet or seven acres.
There will be separate entrances for all the facilities and modern security including firewalls, sprinkler systems and alarms are all in place to meet modern needs. And, while there is segregated play areas for all the different facilities, fundraising will likely have to take place to populate the outdoor spaces for the children.
Construction is beginning this month. A symbolic formal ground-breaking ceremony will be held on Monday, June 18th at 11:00am at the former Sacred Heart area. The public is invited to attend. Construction updates will be posted on the school board sites as the project progresses and both boards will continue their collaboration. The new school is tentatively set to open in September 2020.
Of note, the French Catholic Board will also be discussing the name of the new school since it will be a combined JK to Grade 12 facility.
For updates, go to: http://www.hscdsb.on.ca/ for the English Catholic Board or https://www.nouvelon.ca/ for the French Catholic Board.
Photos: Renderings and schematics provided by IDEA and used with permissions