Architects and partners talk community priorities in design for Huntsville School

By Aaron Mahoney (@Mahones93 on Twitter)
October 30, 2017 - 10:52am

IRON SPRINGS - Because schools are often the hub of many rural communities, the design planning for the new Huntsville School in Iron Springs is providing an opportunity for even greater involvement on the community's part.

Community partners were invited to provide input around their priorities for a new school during a visioning meeting hosted by Palliser Regional Schools and Ferrari Westwood Babits Architects. They also heard possibilities for greater community utilization of the building, which could be complete by the fall of 2020.

The goal of the exercise was to come up with a design that will meet the needs of Palliser students, and the community as a whole for years to come.

Students, school and Central Office staff, and representatives of the County of Lethbridge and Alberta Infrastructure all took part in the exercise. Local business leaders had also been invited.

Principal Chris Spanos says staff were very excited to get moving forward in the process, and they had been looking forward to the first opportunity to work together since the province announced last spring that the project had been bumped up from a modernization to a replacement.

The architects provided participants with some of the design features they've incorporated into other school projects they've been involved with recently. Some of those included schools smaller than Huntsville, which has a growing enrolment of almost 140 students from kindergarten through Grade 9.

Architect David Cocks pointed out donations allowed for a commercial kitchen to be installed and greater community usage in Schuler, a school near Medicine Hat with a capacity of 125 students.

If a commercial kitchen is something the community would value, either now or in the future, Facilities Services Supervisor Darren Stocker said plans should include the required infrastructure, like proper ventilation.

"Other communities have raised funds to expand on the base level while the province provides for things like a gymnasiumsm" Cocks said, adding the allotted gym space in the new Huntsville School will already be twice the size of the gym in the existing building which dates back to 1941.

The school has also been approved for a solar power initiative and while there must be an educational component to that project, Palliser is also looking for ways the community could benefit from it.

A large gathering area where staff and students can come together on a daily basis is a popular feature being incorporated into many new schools recently. Those areas help provide a sense of community when visitors first walk through the doors.

"We have to realize that your education experience is not just learning your numbers and reading and the rest of it," Architect Dan Westwood said. "A lot of the reason we come to school is to learn to work with others and to become socialized."

The architects are hoping to bring back a draft design for the new school within a matter of weeks to see whether they properly interpreted the feedback they received at the meeting. 

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