New School Information
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Keeping you informed: New EPC launch
January 2018 Update
Aspen View Public Schools has determined that, with the best interests of students and staff in mind, the new Edwin Parr Composite (EPC) School will open for the start of the 2018-19 school year.
“Construction continues to move very close to completion along our expected timelines,” Superintendent Mark Francis explained. “However, as is common with any sort of construction project, even minor delays can push other milestones back. For example, there has been a slight delay in the delivery of furnishings; until the furniture arrives, it can’t be assembled; until it’s assembled, we can’t place computers on it; etc. None of the delays are terribly significant or unexpected, but they have affected our forecasted operational date.
“Based on the current situation, the earliest we could feasibly begin operations in the new EPC would be in April, after Spring Break,” Francis continued. “However, there is no educational justification for disrupting students’ learning in the middle of a semester. Therefore, we have determined it best for all concerned to start the next school year fresh in the new school.”
Francis noted that are several advantages to a fall start-up. “While we are eager and excited to get started in the new EPC, waiting until next fall will allow staff plenty of time to get settled in, and lots of opportunities for student orientation and transitioning,” he said. “In the meantime, some of ‘finishing touches’ like landscaping will be able to progress, and we’ll have opportunities to host public open houses and tours to help introduce the community to this wonderful facility.”
The new Edwin Parr Composite School will be a Grade 7-12 school. Students currently in Grades 8-12 will finish the 2017-18 school year in the original EPC, while current Grade 7 students will remain at Landing Trail Intermediate School.
Background and history
Edwin Parr Composite School (EPC) was built in 1948, with additions in 1950, 1954, 1957, 1967 and 1984. Over time and due to heavy use, the current school’s structure has become worn and broken.
Certainly since the construction of EPC, but even since its most recent addition in 1984, technology has not only greatly changed the way education is delivered, but the design of schools has changed as well. The layout of EPC is not effective for current educational practices.
Of particular note, EPC has several barriers to access, with eight separate levels requiring stair access. This layout does not align with current inclusive philosophies, and the Alberta Education School Capital Manual places a priority on barrier-free access upgrades.
Given the age, location and structural makeup of EPC, options for modernization or future expansion are limited.
In August 2012, after the Province of Alberta pledged to build 50 new schools and modernize 70 others, Aspen View Schools amended its annual capital plan in order to put forth a project that would best fit the provincial government’s criteria for school projects. View the 2013 School Capital Funding Priorities here. To summarize:
- Renovating or replacing unsafe schools;
- Building/renovating schools to address enrolment increases;
- Building/renovating schools to provide innovative/enhanced learning opportunities
EPC is not considered unsafe at present. While its age would likely make it prime candidate for modernization, its location and structural makeup severely limit options for modernization and/or expansion.
Student enrolment rates in rural Alberta, including Athabasca, having been trending downward for several years; a trend that is expected to continue.
As a result, Aspen View Schools concluded that its best opportunity to successfully apply for a new/modernized school project was to focus on the innovation/enhancement criteria.
Early in the process of preparing its submission, Aspen View Schools identified the Athabasca Regional Multiplex/Athabasca University area as a particularly advantageous site for a potential new school (see below). As well, at the time the submission was being prepared, the Multiplex location was the only site reasonably available that met Alberta Education guidelines (see below).
In October 2012, Aspen View Public Schools submitted a request to Alberta Education, supported by the Town of Athabasca, Athabasca County, Athabasca University and the Athabasca Metis Community, for a new “21st Century” school to be constructed at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex. View the letter of request here.
This request prompted an engineering and architectural study, known as a Value Scoping Review, which evaluated several renovation/replacement options for both EPC and Landing Trail Intermediate School. The Value Scoping Review was completed and submitted to the provincial government in February 2013. View the Value Scoping Review here.
On January 24, 2014, Alberta Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver announced the approval of a replacement facility for EPC, to be constructed at the Multiplex location. View the Athabasca Advocate article on the funding announcement here.
In February 2015, Alberta Education approved Aspen View Public School’s project grant of approximately $33.9 million. View the grant document here.
Group2 Architecture Interior Design Ltd. was selected as bridging architects through a tendering process to facilitate the project. Schematic drawings were submitted to Alberta Infrastructure and approved in October 2015. View the schematic drawings and site plans here.
At the September 17, 2015 Aspen View School Board meeting, Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette lent his support to the new school project.
Design drawings for the new Athabasca secondary school, representing 90-per-cent design completion, were submitted to Alberta Infrastructure on November 25, 2015. The drawings were prepared by Group2 Architecture Interior Design Ltd., working in conjunction with a design committee comprised of representatives from school and division administration, trustees, parents, teachers, students and community representatives. View an abridged version of the design drawings here. For full design drawings (including all appendices), contact Aspen View Schools Division Office.
On November 19, 2015, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was posted to Alberta Purchasing Connection (APC) and Construction Opportunities Online Network (COOLNet), to engage potential design-build contractors with the appropriate capacity for the new Athabasca secondary school project.
Construction of the new Athabasca secondary school went to tender on February 19, 2016. Five different design-build contractors were eligible to submit tender proposals for the project. These five were selected from 10 respondents to a Request for Qualifications issued in November 2015.
At its April 21, 2016 meeting, the Aspen View Public Schools Board of Trustees voted unanimously at to retain the name of Edwin Parr Composite School for the new Grade 7-12 school in Athabasca.
Bids from each of the five prequalified bidders for the new Edwin Parr Composite School project were received and opened on April 25, 2016. The bid prices ranged from $22,543,000 to $26,089,000.
On Wednesday, April 27, 2016 the Government of Alberta approved an Order in Council approving the transfer of land from Athabasca University to Aspen View Public Schools for the purpose of constructing the new Edwin Parr Composite School.
On Friday, April 29, 2016, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of Aspen View Public Schools passed a motion recommending that Alberta Infrastructure award the contract for design build services for the new Edwin Parr Composite School to the lowest bidder, Clark Builders (An Alberta Partnership), for a stipulated total price of $22,543,000.
On Thursday, July 28, 2016, Aspen View Public Schools announced that it had finalized a contract with Clark Builders for construction of the new Edwin Parr Composite School in Athabasca. Construction began on August 3, 2016.
On Thursday, September 29, 2016, Aspen View Public Schools held the official ‘Ground Broken’ ceremony for the new Edwin Parr Composite School. Current and future EPC students turned the dirt, assisted by Aspen View officials, provincial and municipal government representatives and project partners. Read about the ceremony here.
On December 30, 2016, Aspen View Public Schools received approval from Alberta Education Minister David Eggen to incorporate solar technology into the new EPC project. The grant agreement for the project will be amended once costs are determined, with the understanding that they not exceed $750,000.
Why select the Athabasca Regional Multiplex site?
The option of building a new secondary school in the vicinity of the Athabasca Regional Multiplex was identified as advantageous early in process, due to a number of factors:
- The school can significantly expand its educational, recreational and athletic programs by utilizing multiplex facilities. The indoor and outdoor school athletic facilities will be available for community use as needed.
- Alberta Education does not fund school boards for the purchase of land or the installation of roads or utilities. The multiplex site has sufficient serviced land available for this project at minimal cost to the Town of Athabasca or Athabasca County.
- Alberta Education requires a minimum land parcel of 20 acres for a school the size of EPC. When planning for a replacement school began in 2012, a location near the Athabasca Regional Multiplex was the only publicly-owned property available that met that criteria.
- Aspen View Public Schools and the Athabasca Regional Multiplex will enter into a facilities rental agreement, which will have a significant impact on the operating budget of the multiplex.
In October 2014, Aspen View Public Schools commissioned a comprehensive Site Investigation that evaluated the preferred multiplex site in regard to site services, transportation, environmental impact, geotechnical issues and other factors. This investigation confirmed the multiplex site as a fully viable alternative for a new secondary school location. View the full Site Investigation Report here.
Why is the new school designed as a stand-alone structure?
At the origin of the project, the intent was for the EPC replacement school to be fully attached to the current Athabasca Regional Multiplex. However, a number of architectural and operational concerns have been identified that have resulted in modifications to the original plan:
- Any facility shared between the community and the school requires a degree of separation between members of the public and students.
- Fire code for large structures, such as the new school and the multiplex, requires that either fire walls be installed, or a specified distance between structures be accommodated. Alberta Education does not fund the installation of fire walls.
- The foundation of the multiplex was never designed to attach additional structures. Any attachment would require significant foundation upgrades that would not be funded by Alberta Education.
- There are limited options for attaching to the multiplex structure due to the location of the water reservoir.
- Alberta Education has specifications regarding natural light sources, including window design and lines of visibility, which limit where an attached school can be built.
- The timelines for the planning and construction of a new pool would need to be finalized to coincide with the new school.
In response to these concerns, Group2 Architecture Interior Design Ltd. proposed a campus model where the new school would be constructed in close proximity to the multiplex. This model does not alter the intent of the original vision, which was to share facilities and increase community access to the school. The campus model will provide increased recreational space for the multiplex and community.
Why not renovate the existing Edwin Parr Composite School?
The February 2013 Value Scoping Review estimated that over $18 million dollars would be required to modernize the current EPC. As such, Aspen View Public Schools, in consultation with Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Education, determined that a renovation was not practical nor financially prudent.
Furthermore, according to the Alberta Education School Capital Manual, replacement schools are to be considered if the projected cost of modernization exceeds 75 per cent of the projected replacement cost. At present, the projected cost of modernizing EPC is 83 per cent of the cost of a replacement school.
Why not build on the existing Edwin Parr Composite School site?
According to Alberta Education, a school the size of EPC requires a site of 20 acres to accommodate outdoor athletic facilities and future growth. The current site of Edwin Parr Composite School is 14 acres.
The current Edwin Parr Composite School site has limited options for expansion due to its location on a ravine. Any additional land would need to be designated as school reserves by the Town of Athabasca.
Why were other potential locations not considered for a new school?
In early 2011, following the demolition of the old Athabasca Arena and Curling Rink, Aspen View Schools initiated a dialogue with the Town of Athabasca regarding the municipality’s plans for the area known locally as ‘Jubilee Park’, located southwest of Edwin Parr Composite School. While no formal response was received, the indication from the Town of Athabasca was that land was ‘developmentally friendly’ and likely best suited to other purposes.
When planning for a potential new school began in earnest in 2012, the Athabasca Regional Multiplex location was identified as the only publicly-owned 20-acre parcel available; Alberta Education does not provide funding for the acquisition of private land. The potential availability of other locations, such as the new Landing Park area in east Athabasca, was not presented until after the Jan. 2014 approval of the new school at the Multiplex site.
Regardless, Aspen View Schools maintains that affiliating a new secondary school with the nearby Multiplex and Athabasca University remains the best option for providing 21st century education, promoting community engagement and involvement in the education system, and providing increased recreational, cultural and educational opportunities for the entire Athabasca and area community.
For more information contact Mark Francis at 780‐675-7080 Ext. 11