PEI

Infrastructure review could revitalize old school buildings, says Public Schools Branch

The director of the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch says he hopes a review of school infrastructure throughout the province could lead to repairs to extend the lives of some of those schools.

'Seventy per cent of our schools are 30 years or older'

Students return to Morell Consolidated School in February 2012, one year after the school was closed because of mould. The director of the Public Schools Branch said other school buildings could benefit from the type of renovations Morell received. (CBC News)

The director of the P.E.I. Public Schools Branch says he hopes a review of school infrastructure throughout the province could lead to repairs to extend the lives of some of those schools.

On Friday P.E.I.'s finance minister announced the review would take place, at an estimated cost of $500,000, "to determine which of our schools will require renovation or replacement over the next few years."

Parker Grimmer said the board of directors of the Public Schools Branch actually requested the review.

"Seventy per cent of our schools are 30 years or older," he said. "Even though they're older, they still have great value to us if they're well-maintained and planned for."

Grimmer said while branch staff flag potential problem areas for needed repairs to things like roofs and boilers, "we have limited budgets. Sometimes, when [an] emergency hits, we have to sort of put the other things on hold while we get the emergency looked after."

The head of the Public Schools Branch said his board of directors requested the school infrastructure review the province's finance minister announced in his capital budget speech. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

He said a long-term plan to update older schools could add years to their lifespans.

As an example he pointed to Morell Consolidated School. After it was shut down because of mould in 2011, Grimmer said a comprehensive review was undertaken which "looked beyond the idea of just that one issue. It looked at trying to create a building that would be utilized into the future and would be revitalized."

The school was shut down for a year while windows and lighting were replaced and a new air circulation system was installed.

Grimmer said other old school buildings could benefit from the same kind of makeover. And he said if it's done proactively, problems like mould or leaky roofs might be avoided entirely.

Best bang for Islanders' buck

Education Minister Jordan Brown said the review will allow government to provide "the best bang for Prince Edward Islanders' buck that we can, and to ensure that where we're doing renovations or new builds, that's what we really need in that situation, and that it will be something that will last into the future."

While the review program was announced in the capital budget speech, the estimated half-million dollars to carry it out will come from the province's operating budget.

According to government, the project is currently awaiting funding approval from the province's treasury board. A request for proposals will be issued once that approval is obtained. The review itself is expected to begin before the end of the current fiscal year.

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