Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007
YELLOWKNIFE - A last-minute land move at city council will allow Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) to bring portables to St. Joseph school, though they won't be ready before school begins.
Yellowknife Catholic Schools superintendent Kern Von Hagen and board chair Shannon Gullberg make presentations to city council about the school district's plans for portables on city land beside Ecole St. Joseph on Aug.8. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo
Councillors voted unanimously to give YCS access to the city park next to St. Joe's during a special Aug. 8 council meeting.
A portion of the land adjacent to a ball park and Yellowknife's skate park will hold some of the portable classrooms.
"This has been a long and winding road," said YCS superintendent Kern Von Hagen of the process during a presentation to council.
The proposed land deal comes just days before YCS originally hoped the portables would arrive – though that date is now moot.
Mike Huvenaars, YCS' assistant superintendent for business, said the portables will not be ready for the start of the school year Aug. 30.
"Assuming all goes well, they should all be in place on the 27th." he said, and ready to be used by Sept. 4.
Students, meanwhile, will be juggled between specialized classrooms and normal classrooms at St. Joe's.
"This is the best plan we could get," he said.
Originally, the portables were to be sent by barge from Hay River. Now, they will be trucked to Fort Providence from Crossfield, Alta., barged across all at once, and then trucked to Yellowknife.
"It would have been nice to have this done two months ago," Huvenaars said of the tight timing that saw councillors push the motion through first and second reading in one meeting.
"It's a chicken and the egg thing with these portables."
He said YCS was waiting on several factors before bringing their request to council, such as official board approval to buy the portables and final approval for GNWT funding.
The GNWT will cover roughly $1.7 million of the $2.3 million price tag to purchase and transport the seven portables. YCS will cover the rest.
These modular classrooms will then be used to house students displaced by a three-year retrofit at St. Joe's.
The decision came after a presentation from Von Hagen, where he described the importance of the land to YCS.
"If we don't get this, eventually we will have nowhere to put our kids," he said.
Councillors supported the motion, though some had reservations regarding safety issues in the second half of the proposal – YCS' plan to spend $50,000 on a playground on the south-west portion of the field. This would place it just outside of the ball diamond's right field
The playground would replace St. Joe's current play area, which is in the way of construction.
"I've seen many errant baseballs go out in that direction, some of them my own," said Coun. Bob Brooks.
He worried that, while kids in the nearby skate park should be wearing helmets, kids in the new playground would not.
Earlier, Von Hagen said that was of little concern, given the age of the children who use the field.
"Hitting anything out to where we are proposing is a long shot," he said with a chuckle. "If so, Barry Bonds is in trouble."
Council's recommendation was to hold off on playground discussions until administration had a closer look at the proposal.
"We have a hard time getting people off there to get maintenance in," said community services manager Grant White of the site's popularity.
"We'd like to discuss this more with YCS."