By Charles Tweed
Phase – a part, a fraction of the plan, a distinct stage of development.
The very word implies an unfinished project, for it relies on other phases being completed in order to reach your finished project.
Phase 1 and 2 renovations to the Ponoka Composite High School (PCHS) have been budgeted for and work is underway.
Phase 3 hangs in limbo, provincial support has not been confirmed.
Right now, phase 3 is a weak link, of sorts.
Phases 1 and 2 are relying on the third and final phase for all three to reach their goal. For the goal is much bigger than one phase alone — a state of the art school and model for the rest of the province.
“Now is the time to invest and the government knows they need to finish the project, the problems aren’t going to go away and the sooner we can get funding and secure a tender the cheaper it is going to be,” said principal Ian Rawlinson.
Rawlinson was speaking at a meeting designed to inform students, parents and community members the importance of phase 3.
What exactly is phase 3?
The final phase has three main areas of emphasis: fine arts, physical education and career and technology studies (CTS).
Art at PCHS is now in the back of the old mechanics lab while drama is in the old construction classroom and there is no band space whatsoever. Phase 3 would move art to a multipurpose lab area. The space would allow for new art options, such as sculpting, to be explored. The final renovations also project a 300-seat theatre space for drama classes. The theatre is designed to double as a conference area and will be accessible to the community. Finally, there will be band storage and the theatre can provide concerts in the future. It also modernizes the mechanical and heating in this area of the building.
The second main area of phase 3 is physical education. PCHS has one gym station and due to enrollment, the school needs three stations for every block of the school day. The third phase proposes a full two-station gym and fitness room, which would fulfill the three needed spaces. The addition of the new spaces means kids won’t have to be bused elsewhere in town for recreation purpose, a savings of $50,000 a year.
The final area is CTS — a program that PCHS is well known for, due to its successes at Skills Canada competitions. Currently the roof leaks, there is no washroom for female students, and equipment and facilities have become dated. The third phase will fix the roof, add full washrooms, and upgrade the welding and automotive labs. The upgrades will allow the ability for the school to offer Red Deer College modules in all CTS areas.
Patricia Bachleitner thought the ability to upgrade college courses was a huge benefit.
“I don’t have to stop my job, go to student finances and start from scratch. I can take a night class and upgrade right in my own community and the money doesn’t just go to RDC, it stays in town,” said Bachleitner.
Warren Hart graduated from PCHS in ’74. Since then his daughter, Allison, has graduated and next year his son, Taylor, will go to school there. He said the school hasn’t changed since he graduated and was impressed by the savings the final phase will offer the school.
“This government always talks about fiscal responsibility. This project was $25 million, now it’s $18 million, to me that’s a no brainer,” said Hart. “You look at the costs, it cost $50,000 a year to send kids out of school for phys-ed, that’s a two-thirds teaching position. What could that money do? Where could it benefit?”
The meeting stressed how important it is to lock up funding sooner than later.
“We are hoping everyone will write a letter to the government officials in charge. We don’t want to draft a letter and have people sign it, we want your personal story. Why you think the renovations should be completed. We feel that holds more weight,” said Rawlinson.