August 5, 2014 by realrenewal
Nokomis school parents have proven the value of gaining a second engineering report when school facilities are threatened with closure. “An engineering report…has confirmed what many local residents suspected all along: the Nokomis School gymnasium is not structurally unsound – it simply has a few leaks,” the Last Mountain Times reported on July 22.
The school now has a chance to continue full operations “thanks to the diligence and persistence of the Nokomis School Community Council and the Town of Nokomis,” the Times reported.
Parents and the town council have been fighting to keep Nokomis School open for years. Between 2007 and 2012, the school was cited for closure four times, based on projected enrolment declines.
However, a committee of review examined copious research that contradicted the division’s enrolment projections. As well, residents developed a plan to use the gym and spare classroom space for evening classes and recreation programs, adding weight to the argument to keep in open.
Then in 2012, division officials suddenly produced an engineer’s report that declared the school’s gym was unsafe for occupancy. They padlocked the doors immediately, citing an estimated $750,000 repair cost.
With the support of town council and legal assistance, parents were able to successfully gain an independent review of the gym, which was presented to Town Council on July 16. The report found the building was sound, and that the roof could be capped to prevent leaks at a cost likely to be well under the initial repair estimate, Mayor David Mark told the Last Mountain Times.
The community paid for the study, although the school division is now offering to split the bill in recognition of the valuable information and options it provided.
In a similar vein, École Connaught Community School supporters in Regina offered to pay for a team of heritage building experts to inspect their 102-year-old historic school and come up with affordable renovation alternatives. This was thwarted by the Regina Board of Education’s repeated refusal to allow independent assessors inside the building to carry out structural tests.
One possible factor in the different outcomes is that when a school closure is considered in rural areas, a committee of review is struck that includes community representation, including SCC members and town council representatives. This allows for more even-handed forum to review the research and ideas offered by residents.
When the Saskatchewan Party brought in the review process, they excluded urban school communities from this benefit, stating urban school divisions already had adequate rules in place.