High school confidential
Report expected next month on fate of Sir John

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 14/97) - To build or not to build?

That's the question the public school board is faced with when it comes to Sir John Franklin high school -- and it all hinges on a report scheduled to be made public next month.

A tentative design project set to begin April 1 and expected to take a year to complete will identify what improvements the 39-year-old building needs.

Ken Woodley, superintendent of the public school board, said the board is waiting for improvements the GNWT agreed to when it passed the school over to the board in 1995.

"One of the terms of takeover was a substantial renovation, and it hasn't been done," he said.

Woodley said that the GNWT agreed to make the work a priority in 1995-96, but the board is still working on getting the ball rolling.

"It's been a long, protracted process," he said. "Now we're waiting for the final review of options for accommodating program needs.

"But it's been slower than expected because of reductions in transfer payments."

One of the issues surrounding the retrofit is seating capacity. A study completed in June 1995 revealed that a new school must allow for 1,000 students.

Projected population growth has now dropped to zero because of the changing economic environment. Despite this, some board members question renovating the school for only 700 to 750 students.

"If we renovate Sir John for 700 to 750 kids, I think it's waste of money," said trustee Wendy Bisaro at a board meeting held earlier this week.

"Does the plan make long-term economic sense -- to continue to upgrade the present building?" asked board trustee Garth Wallbridge.

But most importantly, said Woodley, is the kind of facility required by the educational programming?

"We haven't planned a building yet, but we are concerned about the age and condition of the building," he said. "The heating and air circulating need constant upgrading."

Sir John Franklin high school was built in 1958 by the government and served students from across the western NWT until 1995.