Good news for P.J. Gillen School

pjgillenThere’s good news on the horizon for P.J. Gillen School in Esterhazy. Although it’s too late for this winter season, by next winter the cold classroom temperatures and concerning carbon dioxide levels should be a thing of the past.

For several years now, the main heating system at the school has been shut down due to poor air quality and mold issues. This necessitated the use of electric heaters in the classrooms, and while these provided heat, they did not facilitate ventilation.

It was a catch 22 situation. The heating system was originally shut down because of air quality, but the temporary solution meant opening the windows in winter to provide ventilation, thus making the place as cold as 15 degrees C. You could have it warm without ventilation and also have drowsy kids, or you could have alert kids who were so cold they had to be dressed in layers!  Clearly, something had to be done.

Early this week, a group of concerned parents spent time at the Legislative Building in Regina, talking with the Minister of Education about the situation. The case was raised in Monday’s question time, and “suddenly” a solution was presented, with the announcement that $800,000 would be made available to address the problem.

While it might be tempting to consider the timing of this announcement to be “uncanny”, the fact is that the provincial education ministry and the Good Spirit School Division were already engaged in discussions prior to the announcement being made.

In a telephone call with EsterhazyOnline this morning, Dwayne Reeve, the Director of Education for Good Spirit School Division, intimated that discussions have been in progress for some time, at least since concerns about air quality were raised by the Sunrise Health Region earlier this year.

Initially, the school division put forward a proposal to the ministry for a project would cost in the region of $5 Million, but this was not going to fly, so in recent weeks, a scaled-down $1.3 million version was proposed. The new proposal calls for the installation of natural gas heaters that also filter in fresh air.

The announcement of $800,000 becoming available is a response to that scaled-down proposal, and the remaining $500,000 is within the capabilities of the school division to handle.

Although it may not quite be the solution the school division was initially hoping for, Reeve is now very positive that it will bring much-needed changes to P.J. Gillen School. To that end, the school board is meeting next week to finalize the situation, and thereafter the process will begin to determine the scope of work and invite tenders for the work. It is hoped much of the work will take place during the summer, thereby minimizing disruption to education itself.

Ultimately, it’s all about the kids, and next winter they should be warm and comfortable in the classrooms, and that is good news indeed.

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