Construction on a new 387-space junior kindergarten to Grade 6 Rainbow District School Board elementary school under construction on the same site as Lasalle Secondary School has run into delays as well as cost escalations that have added millions to its original price tag.
The school is now expected to open in September 2023, a year later than originally planned. It will accommodate students from Ernie Checkeris Public School, Carl A. Nesbitt Public School and Westmount Avenue Public School.
The original funding approved by the Ministry of Education in August 2017 was $12.6 million. However, the cost has now escalated to approximately $17.1 million.
The Rainbow board said the economic environment has changed significantly over the past five years, and the board applied for more funding from the ministry as the project progressed due to increased costs for materials, unique site work and COVID-19.
The Ministry of Education has since increased its funding contribution to $14.1 million, and the board has put in a request for another $908,475 to help defray increased project costs due to COVID-19.
These costs include increases for materials, PPE, additional supervision and social distancing. The board has yet to receive any confirmation on this possible source of funding.
Construction on the school also ran into a snag due to soil instability issues in the fall of 2021, which is responsible for the construction delay, as well as tacking another $2.1 million onto the project’s costs.
The board is dipping into its own proceeds of disposition fund to cover these costs. When schools are declared surplus and subsequently sold, the revenue generated by the sale goes into a reserve, which can be used to offset the costs of new construction.
The Rainbow board explained that the school was designed with slab on grade construction.
Construction proceeded based on the recommendations from the original geotechnical report as well as the architects and engineers.
Micropiles were installed in the fall of 2020 and work on the overall structure of the building subsequently began.
Following the winter deep freeze, some of the piles had shifted once the soil settled.
The board requested a supplementary geotechnical investigation that was completed by October 2021.
This report was commissioned to assess the subgrade soils and re-evaluate the slab on grade option.
The report came back recommending a change to a structural slab design, which has since been approved by the Ministry of Education.
During the June 29 Rainbow board meeting, Sandra Ackroyd, who’s the board’s manager of capital projects, gave trustees an update on the school’s construction.
As of that early summer update, work was proceeding in the upper levels of the building, even as remedial work needed to be done in the lower level. “The second and third floor have the first coat of paint on it,” she said at that meeting.
Following Ackroyd’s presentation at the June meeting, trustee Anita Gibson asked if there was a process in the works for naming the school.
Director of education Bruce Bourget said board staff have been referring to the new school as Lasalle Elementary School, although he wasn’t sure whether there was any intent on behalf of the trustees to formally adopt or change this name.
“Much of the discussion leading up to this point has been around the campus model, and the Lasalle campus,” Bourget said. “That's why the current name of Lasalle Elementary School is being used. However, there could be some discussions going forward in the future.”
The Rainbow District School Board’s website said the new school “will incorporate a number of green features as Rainbow District School Board makes sustainability an ongoing priority, including R30 exterior walls, heat recovery system, toilets and urinals with sensor activated flush valves, a building automation system and LED lighting with occupancy sensors.”
Heidi Ulrichsen is the associate content editor at Sudbury.com. She also covers education and the arts scene.