Regina elementary school more costly to renovate than rebuild

Significant cracks in the bricks inside Ecole St. Pius' gymnasium equipment room. Derek Putz/Global News

Ecole St. Pius X is nearing the end of its lifespan. The elementary school located in Regina’s Lakeview neighbourhood currently has three closed classrooms.

“As you can see, we’ve got a complete separation of the walls. One load-bearing wall and one’s just a separation wall,” principal Shawn Pearce said while giving Global News a tour of one of the closed rooms.

Room 14, located in the school’s lower level, also has cracks near the ceiling, floor and brickwork. The floor has also heaved and is slanted. The door needed to have a portion of the top filed down so it could fit in the doorframe.

A split between two walls in one of the three closed classrooms at Ecole St. Pius. Derek Putz/Global News

That room is in one of the rougher areas of the school, but the deterioration is evident throughout the building.

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“We do our best to cover it and put some cosmetics on, but at the same time there’s things you just can’t hide,” Pearce said.

To remedy this, several portable classrooms have been added to St. Pius. Pearce said class sizes aren’t stressed due to the closed classrooms. A portion of the students who attended St. Pius last year now go to St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the Catholic side of the joint-use Harbour Landing School.

A March 2018 engineering report prepared by P3Achiteecture Partnership (P3A) says in addition to structural issues, there are a number of building code violations couple with electrical and mechanical deficiencies.

Some of these issues include the school being at capacity with 14 portable classrooms and a lack of sprinklers and wood construction.

P3A makes two recommendations: renovate and build an addition onto the school with a $33 million price tag or build a new school at a cost of $28 million.

One of many filled cracks at Ecole St. Pius. Derek Putz/Global News

“We’re all concerned about the state of the building in the next five, six years and that sort of thing. It takes a while to build a new building,” Pearce said.

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St. Pius was originally built in 1952. Major renovations took place in 1956 and 1977 to grow the school.

P3A has been providing annual engineering reports since 2014. It is anticipated that the deterioration of the school will accelerate by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

There is no concrete plan on when funding for a new school will be announced, but it is on the Ministry of Education’s radar. A rebuild for St. Pius is on the ministry’s top ten list for 2018 capital requests from schools, one of four rebuild requests on the list. Ecole St. Mary is the only other Regina rebuild on the list.

For now, Education Minister Gordon Wyant said there is the $49.6 million preventative maintenance budget.

“The ministry does provide funding, through the government, funding for emergent needs, funding for preventative maintenance. So there is funds available to the school division for some of those things,” Wyant said.

Across the aisle, education critic Carla Beck called on the government to take more serious action.

“You have to put say $2 million into that school just to keep it ahead of the engineer’s report, when the school actually needs to be replaced, that’s $2 million you don’t have to put into schools that aren’t at the end of their life expectancy,” Beck said.

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Buckling drywall located in a closed classroom at Ecole St. Pius. Derek Putz/Global News

The 2018-19 provincial budget only includes funding for two major capital education projects. These are consolidation projects in Weyburn and Rosthern valued at $22.7 million.

READ MORE: First joint-use school opens in Regina

Last year, Regina, Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville were the bread winners for capital projects. This included the completion of nine public/Catholic joint-use schools.

As for the day-to-to learning at St. Pius everything will continue to run as normal. Parent’s council chair Lara Davyduke, whose two daughters are Grade 3 students at St. Pius, shares Pearce’s concern in a rebuild being delayed too much.

“I think we have to remain positive and optimistic that every year they’re going to relook at the priorities and understand what’s going on with our educations sector and see what the needs are. So we have to maintain optimism,” she said.

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Despite the structural issues, parents are happy with the primary foundation of the school, the teachers and other staff.

“I know parents want to stay here. They have concerns that things could happen to the school in the future if it’s not fixed, or if it’s not rebuilt I should say,” Davyduke said.

“But at this point I don’t think anyone has plans of relocating.”

Now slanted cupboards in a closed Ecole St. Pius classroom. Derek Putz/Global News

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