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BCHS staff, students won't go back to facility until new school year

Staff and students of Bonnyville Centralized High School won't head back into their renovated facility until the beginning of the 2021/22 school year

BONNYVILLE – Staff and students at Bonnyville Centralized High School (BCHS) will have to wait a little bit longer to get into the newly modernized building.  

“We got official word that we’re going to stay here at the C2 until the end of June,” stated BCHS principal Mark Centazzo. “We’ll be back in our new, modernized building for September.”  

The hope was for the construction to be ready enough to allow classes to resume at the school at the beginning of April, but the project isn’t as close to completion as originally thought.  

Centazzo noted the site is busy with "lots of things that are ongoing" to finish the modernization on the local high school.  

“The floors are poured, and many of the classrooms are actually physically taking shape. Whiteboards are up, some millwork is in, science counters, teachers' desks, cupboards, and shelves,” he detailed. “There’s quite a bit of progress going on. It’s starting to look like classrooms and normal hallways again.”  

The provincial government announced in March of 2017 that upgrades to BCHS were approved along with 26 school projects across Alberta, which they had allocated $500-million toward.  

The modernization will see an NBA-sized gymnasium, a full-sized kitchen, more natural lighting, and an updated common area, among other amenities added to the facility.  

Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) struck a deal with the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre to house students and staff while construction was ongoing, which happened at the beginning of the 2019/20 school year.   

The move was one that staff and students have enjoyed, stated Centazzo.  

“The C2’s been fantastic,” he expressed. “The kids have enjoyed the access to the facility, the C2 staff have been fantastic... hosts for us.”   

The board of trustees for the school division released a statement in January of 2020 voicing their dismay regarding the delays when the tender for the modernization didn’t go out until that time. The contract for the project wasn’t awarded until March of 2020 when Alberta Infrastructure chose Jen-Col Construction. Then, construction didn’t begin until the following month.   

The first phase of the project was scheduled to be completed by January 2021, which was when the school division originally planned to move students and staff back into the school.

An update from BCHS on Feb. 23 stated the modernization wasn't as far along as originally hoped, and it would be challenging to have classes resume with a number of places throughout the facility still under construction.  

NLPS has been working with Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson to get approval for students to remain at the C2 for the remainder of the 2020/21 school year, the statement read, "at no additional cost to the school division."

Centazzo said it was "bittersweet" when they heard about their extended stay at the C2.  

“We wanted to be back in our own building, but we’re also glad not to go back into a construction zone where that type of work would still be going on as well as classes,” he added. “It’s bittersweet that we’re going to stay here, but we’re going to make the best of it and then carry onto our new building next year.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle