Questions surround future of historic Edmonton schools
EDMONTON – The future of two century-old Edmonton schools is in question.
The 100th anniversary of the construction of the Westmount Junior High School was celebrated last October.
Highlands Junior High School will celebrate the same anniversary on May 31.
“I think it’s one of the treasures of the city. We only have a few of these buildings in Edmonton, and it’s the responsibility of everybody in the city and the province to value it,” says Susan Ruttan, Highlands Community League.
The future of the two historic schools is in jeopardy because of the school replacement process the Public School Board is undertaking.
One of three older communities will be getting a new kindergarten to grade nine school. Westmount and Highlands junior high schools are located in two of those areas.
There are challenges within the century-old buildings. At Highlands, the boilers are a cause for concern.
“You can’t buy parts for these anymore. So, if something goes wrong, they actually have to machine the parts to fix it,” explains Brad Burns, Highlands Principal.
But the school is seen as an anchor for community and historical advocates.
“There’s only so many schools like this in the province and certainly in the city, and I think it should warrant more specific consideration, that we’re trying to look at win-win here,” says Stuart Drozd, Highlands Historical Society.
If one of the historic schools is vacated, it hasn’t been decided what will happen to the building. The Public School Board has indicated it would work with community groups and the City of Edmonton to determine a future use.
“If there’s a way to do that in this building and bring this building up to a standard that is comparable to other schools (that would be the best plan),” says Burns.
Otherwise, the Highlands principal believes moving into a new building would make sense.
The issue is coming down to money and the best use of limited resources. But for some, the issue is about preserving a piece of history.
“Ideally, the school board will use this as a new school that they would invest in and improve and make something of,” says Ruttan.
On Tuesday, the second round of public meetings will start for the three areas where the replacement school is being considered.
The board is expected to make a decision in June.
With files from Vinesh Pratap
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