CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
It must feel like a giant weight has been lifted off of Ponoka Composite High School principal Ian Rawlinson’s chest after the provincial government announced the school will receive funding for phase 3 renovations.
“I’m absolutely excited and full of pride,” said Rawlinson. “It’s a real feeling of appreciation for the school and community and to be honest, with what Ray (Prins) and his government has done for this community.”
Rawlinson was speaking after touring the school with the provincial MLA, Wolf Creek Public Schools superintendent Larry Jacobs and secretary- treasurer Joe Henderson. The PCHS principal showed Prins which areas of the school are to be upgraded as a result of phase 3 before the two toured the east side of the school that is currently undergoing phases 1 and 2.
“I received a lot of letters from parents and friends of the school that expressed concern about finishing this job and I want to thank people for their love of the school and love of education,” said Prins while he displayed the stack of letters he received regarding the final phase of renovations — some of which were handwritten.
The funding means the school will have a multipurpose lab area for art classes, a 300-seat theatre and a storage area for band equipment.
“The government is 100 per cent committed to education,” said Prins.
“There is always a limited amount of money and a lot of asks but this job has a very high priority in Alberta.”
The school will also see upgrades in the gymnasium, creating a two-station gym and new fitness room to bring the station number to three. The additional space means students won’t have to be bused elsewhere for recreational purposes, a savings of $50,000. Career and Technology Studies, an area that PCHS has become renowned for throughout the country, will get a much-needed shot in the arm as well.
The third phase will fix the leaky roof, add washrooms for female students and upgrade the welding and automotive labs, allowing the school to offer Red Deer College modules in the future.
“Kids in CTS classes deserve the same opportunity as anyone else,” said Rawlinson. “When you talk about intervention and keeping kids in schools those programs keep kids in school and having the areas upgraded means tons.”
When the school is completely renovated it will offer a new design never before seen in the public school system.
Gone are the concrete dividing walls and well defined cubical learning areas, replaced with a more wide open theme and pods for teachers.
“The modernization concept is very leading edge and it’s something to get excited about. Some of the ideas the principal has brought here, I believe, are going to be very successful,” said Prins. “It is going to be a great learning environment for the young people of Ponoka.”
Prins also admitted the government would be paying close attention to how the new concept works and expects school boards around the province to tour the school once it is complete, adding PCHS could very well become a model for future school renovations.
An exact dollar figure wasn’t given for the cost of phase 3, that could start as early as this year, but earlier estimates had the renovations costing between $18 and $25 million.