School Board Decision On Connaught Is Actually Doubleplusungood For Heritage Architecture

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For a moment last night I was thrilled about Connaught being rebuilt!  (CBC) (Global) (LP)

Then my hopes were dashed by CTV’s coverage that said Connaught will actually be replaced.

Well played, Regina, well played. You get me every time.

Author: Carle Steel

Carle Steel was a simple moisture farmer on a barren, sun-baked world who, through fate and destiny, brought the mighty Galactic Empire to its knees. She likes cats, bats, mice and you.

21 thoughts on “School Board Decision On Connaught Is Actually Doubleplusungood For Heritage Architecture”

  1. 2 years ago, they closed Athabasca school here in River Heights and said the kids may be bussed to Connaught or elsewhere. If you remember Athabasca school was structurally sound and was built in the 1950s. Now, they want to raze Connaught and build a new school. Does this make sense? Athabasca school has since been sold by the school board and is now a church. With Harbour Landing not having a school and Connaught needing major repairs, why did they close Athabasca school? Someone was not thinking this through!

  2. Did anyone actually read the motion on the agenda? The vote was to rebuild, but include elements of the current building. Given how the engineers report said if you do nothing it will fall down on the kids heads in the next few years, I think a rebuild is reasonable.

    As to all this ‘heritage’ word useage, please correct me if I’m wrong, but the building has no designation under the Act….so why are people calling it something it isn’t? It’s an old building that is falling apart. Even the consultants report (released last June with the study) mentioned the fact that many of the design elements of a heritage nature are no longer on the building, so that wasn’t much worth saving.

    In my mind, the bigger issue is there isn’t enough funding to keep these buildings up in the first place. Blame 100 years of lack of funding by the Ministry of Education.

  3. #2 – Tim, we’re just sick of seeing the buildings that were constructed around the time the city was founded destroyed.

  4. CBC: “Well it’s always a tough decision when you have to decide whether to retrofit an old heritage building with a lot of significance to a community or start fresh and rebuild it.”

    Respectfully: Nope! It’s an easy one. The community wants Connaught rebuilt restored. This is probably a feasible option but it hasn’t, in the view of the community, been properly or fully explored. Why not? Why is the Board railroading this through?

    Add to this the Board’s unwillingness to listen (which everyone saw at last night’s meeting), along with thinly veiled threats that Cathedral’s school could just be taken away (blackmail is always classy!), and it’s clear that this is, on balance, a malicious, ignorant, stubborn and arrogant board (with a couple good trustees).

    This fiasco is happening because the board (acting for the Province) wants a new building and has contempt for the wishes of the community. They don’t consult, they don’t listen and they have no vision.

    Connaught is both a beloved neighbourhood school and a 100-year-old heritage treasure that the whole city can be proud of. We’re in a Saskaboom and yet we’re expected to believe that this school can’t be fixed? And we’re building a new stadium? Give me a fucking break!

    Just stupid, petty and mean as hell. This city’s and province’s ruling political and business class is a clown carnival of ego and stupidity.

  5. Tim: given the way trustees eyes glazed over during Elliott’s presentation and that they asked her to stop talking mid-sentence, AND given the fact that they refused to table the motion (literally the least they could do) pending further study, the community has just cause to be outraged. What I saw last night was beyond disgrace.

    You are spot on that building maintenance has not been properly funded.

  6. Real costs need to be displayed. If it costs twice as much to renovate, it would be foolish to not rebuild. If its pretty similar, it makes more sense to renovate. PS its a Saskaboom, not a Reginaboom, big difference, the city is not flush with cash (though stadium is a bit of a headscratcher).

  7. Tim, the word “heritage” is an English word with English meaning. It can be legitimately applied to buildings like Connaught School irrespective of that building’s status under the various Heritage Acts.

    Those of us who find heritage value in the current building largely feel that razing the building to rebuild will utterly destroy that heritage value, even if token elements of the current building are included. It will no more be the same school than Winston Knoll is Central Collegiate.

    According to the engineering report, it will cost approximately $6.25 million to stabilize the building. Much like with the stadium project, we have been presented with two options: rehabilitation combined with an over-the-top, pie-in-the-sky upgrade or new construction. We have then been told that new construction provides far better value-for-money than the alternative. In both cases, we are expected to completely ignore the possibility of rehabilitation alone or rehabilitation combined with a more modest upgrade.

    The case of Connaught School is particularly disheartening, as we have been told it will cost $23.2 million for the restoration/upgrade to align the school’s design with “the latest pedagogical practices”. Let’s be clear about this: the pedagogical practices wholeheartedly embraced by the Regina Public School Board are not modern best practices, they are part of the experimental “open-concept” school paradigm — a paradigm that many of us are extremely skeptical of, for good reason. The “open-concept” revolution already failed in the late 60s/early 70s and studies show that “open-concept” is particularly harmful to some already vulnerable groups of students: including those with concentration problems and the mentally disadvantaged.

    I agree with you, Tim, that our current infrastructure deficit (and not just in the education system) is largely due to years of underfunding. While the blame game is fun, it tells us very little about what we should do now. I would argue that the best way to address our infrastructure deficit would be to spend our limited money on rehabilitation, maintenance, and necessary upgrades. Instead, the RPSB seems dead-set on blowing its load on sexy new construction projects.

  8. Well said Brad. I also have serious issues with not only losing an histroically significant building, but with the “open conept” schools RBE is building now. They’ve been tried other places and failed, especially for students who are vulnerable for various reasons. I also have a sneaking suspicion that they will build a school with a larger capacity and then shut down Davin, which will be demolished for condos or some other such development and send all those kids to this wonderful new “open concept” school. They seem to have decided that these schools are good idea and have no intention of listening to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They have also decided that schools must be a certain size to be finacially efficient. Although I understand they are limited in their budget, the model they propose is not what’s best for many students, or for the communities they are located in.

  9. Align with “the latest pedagogical practices”? Do they now mean standardized testing? Open concept might not be good for test taking…

  10. Oh, wow, lots of comments. If I missed your point I apologize in advance.

    @Stephen – I’m confused by your statement that the Board didn’t consult. By my count in a few internet searches there was two meeting with the SCC about it, three public meetings, the presentation of the stage 1 study at a public meeting….exactly how much ‘consultation’ is enough? The SCC first heard about this in Jan 2012 with the first public meeting on April 3, 2012. They had LOTS of time to present their point of view. The final report had like five pages of comments from the community with exactly what they said.

    As to not listening. Just because the majority of the members of the board didn’t agree with the community doesn’t mean they didn’t hear. Don’t confuse agreeing with listening. I would wager that why it took so long to decide was to look into all the options and figure out the costs and issues of each choice.

    As to no vision…again I have to disagree. They want to renewal school buildings and have a sustainable system…why do you think they added a sustainability policy? Again, just because your vision is different doesn’t invalidate others.

    Having not attended the meeting in person I can’t comment on their actions other to point out the time limits on presentations are very clear. 15 minutes and please provide a copy in advance. If you go longer you can be cut off.

    As to the motion that has to come from a trustee..so did Trish have her motion in the presentation…if so why didn’t her trustee make the motion? That is a valid question, but motions can’t come from the floor. Feel free to look up Robert’s Rules of Order if you like.

    @Bronymous – To my knowledge real costs were in the stage one study were published last June. Replacement building was estimated at $18.9M, while a rebuild could be upwards of $26.2M or 38% higher.

    @Brad – I disagree that the open concept will fail again…but after 20 years of failing to improve educational outcomes I’m perhaps willing to take a few more risks. I don’t find the fact that 3 out of 10 kids fail to finish grade 12 a minor issue, so if buildings take a back seat to actual education…so be it.

    Also to echo what Stephen pointed out the majority of the money for a new school comes from the provincial government not the board. I fully agree the funding levels have to go up to cover the real costs. We can play the blame game for a while, but in the end there wasn’t enough money put into this building over the decades to keep it up properly. So you have less choices now.

    @anonymouse – Davin isn’t even on the table for being shut down, you really should read those board reports prior to making unfounded statements.

    Very interesting discussion everyone…thank you for the debate.

  11. @Tim, you write: “Just because the majority of the members of the board didn’t agree with the community doesn’t mean they didn’t hear.”

    Actually it does.

    Also: I wasn’t clear on the motion–sorry for causing confusion. Trustee Carla Beck, who spoke very well on the complexities of the situation, acknowledging the difficult realities of rehabilitating old, neglected buildings with the limited powers of the board, presented a motion to TABLE the motion to vote on Connaught’s replacement. Her motion-delaying motion was voted down: more evidence that this board is not interested in dialogue with the community or exploring alternatives.

  12. @Stephen,

    Doing what is in people’s best interest isn’t doing what is popular. Frankly I wish I saw more of that in decisions like this from governments at all levels.

    Ah, thank you for clearing up what occurred for the motions. That makes more sense. Carla is very good to listen to people’s input.

    While I can’t offer to know what exactly went through their heads might I offer a theory. If the board wasn’t really interested in listening why didn’t they vote last June or even in Sept to do this. Why the wait? Well to look into the option of doing a rebuild. Perhaps additional engineering work was done and came back with the bad news – you can’t save the building. All the wishes in the world won’t stop a building if its foundation and superstructure are beyond repair. Also if that is the case delaying the vote won’t help the kids if the building is falling down around them.

    So did any of media ask about why they voted for the rebuild of each board member? Did anyone think the Real Renewal might have a conflict of interest in this since some of their members kids either went to Connaught or go there now? Or perhaps the Board got the heads up from the Ministry that it is going to be a tough budget coming up so asking for dollars for one little project was not going to be approved so don’t even try. Why fight for a few million for a building when you are trying to keep your $220 million budget in tact to pay the teachers which are WAY more important to the kids education?

    My point is the board in my experience are all rational people who are doing the best job they can with the information they have. The decisions might not be doing the easy thing, but often they try to do the right thing (at least in their minds).

    Thanks again for all the information.

    Tim

  13. @ Tim. Davin goes on and off the table frequesntly. The school board seems to have a tendancy to build larger schools and then close other schools in the neighbourhood and send those kids to the new school. They have a number of students they have determined as a minimum for financial reasons and are moving towards these larger schools and bussing as much as possible. Smaller schools like Davin are always in danger. We were told (by someone at the school board) not to enroll our kids at Davin because it would be closed at some point likely before our kids finished elementary. This was within the past few years (and after it had supposedly been removed from the list of possible closures). Self-fulfilling prophesy I guess. Get people not to send their kids there and then close it due to low enrollment. The school board has one less smaller, older school to maintain. Sorry to sound paranoid, but honestly a few years in this city makes the sanest person question everyting.

  14. @ Tim. Back on topic. As far as the “consultation” process for Connaught goes… There is a HUGE difference between consultation and holding a couple of meetings disseminating information on a decision that has essentially already been made. The information given was severely slanted in favour of the outcome the school board wanted. Sorry, but fixing the building is not more expensive than building new, not without some serious and perhaps unneccessry upgrades. And building a cheaper building will cost in the long run as it’s lifespan won’t be anywhere close to what Connaught’s has been. Plus the open concept thing WILL fail again (why would you expect a different outcome from the same thing exactly?) and then the building will require renovations to change it as the physical layout of the building is very much tied to this specific method of education. Both the school board and the architect had obvious reasons for presenting this slanted view of things and no intention of listening to the community.

  15. “Replacement building was estimated at $18.9M, while a rebuild could be upwards of $26.2M or 38% higher.” Rebuild.

  16. The epithets applied by you to the Trustees who do not share your point of view, Stephen, have me wondering whether you’re hankerin’ for another libel suit, with all the attendant publicity for the PD. Luckily, the Board is too careful with the taxpayers’ money to respond in that way to your nonsense..

  17. Meant to say replace it. With a really nice new aesthetically pleasing building. Can we afford to be sentimental/appreciative of the past for $7 million?

  18. The new Douglas Park school has barely been open and they are having trouble with the ‘open concept’ concept. Distraction and noise were two of the big issues. They’re already trying to figure out out to separate the classes better. Talk of baffles, etc.. doesn’t sound like it was a good idea in the first place.

    My child is going to be going to a Regina public school next year that is not open-concept. I guess with it not being open-concept, my child will be losing out if open-concept is the way to go. I’m glad it’s not open concept and the teachers can focus on teaching their class.

  19. @20: There are always shakedown issues when something new begins…though facts, rather than gossip and hearsay, should be the factor used in assessing the gravity of the situation. That said, your child will not miss out on learning, because Regina Public has wonderful, adaptable, capable, and caring teachers. All the best.

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