Two schools in Prairie South School Division operated over 100-per-cent capacity and 12 operated under 50-per-cent capacity last year, although the division has worked to alleviate pressures at the overcapacity buildings.
There are 31 schools in PSSD and the average space usage in the division is 58 per cent, according to the 2022-23 buildings accountability report presented during the recent board meeting. Ten underused schools are rural, while the others are Empire School (33 per cent) and Riverview Collegiate (21 per cent).
In comparison, the usage rates of those two city schools during the 2021-22 year were 31 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.
Meanwhile, the two schools that were overcapacity last year were King George School (107 per cent) and Sunningdale School (103 per cent). In comparison, their usage rates during the 2021-22 year were 102 per cent and 105 per cent, respectively.
The space usage rate is based on a Ministry of Education formula that uses kindergarten to Grade 12 enrolment as of Sept. 30 of a school year and a school’s capacity number, the report said.
Trustee Lew Young spoke about the two schools being overcapacity and several rural and urban schools hovering around 20 per cent. He wondered if anything had changed significantly in the last year that concerned division administration.
Buildings manager Darren Baiton replied that the data has been “pretty consistent” lately. The division has applied to the ministry for portables at King George (two) and Sunningdale (one) but has been unsuccessful. The province is only providing portables to schools at 115 per cent overcapacity, although that’s come down from 140 per cent.
Baiton added that that overcapacity will continue until the division can secure portable classrooms.
According to the buildings accountability report, Empire and Central Collegiate are the two oldest PSSD schools at 114 years old, while the newest is seven years old. Meanwhile, the average age of schools is 67 years.
Prairie South used just under 400,000 kilowatt hours (KWH) of electricity in 2022-23 and paid roughly $1.14 million for that, the report showed. Meanwhile, it consumed nearly 2.1 million cubic metres of natural gas (NG) and paid nearly $700,000 for that.
In comparison, it used roughly 200,000 KWH more in electricity and roughly 50,000 cubic metres less in natural gas in 2021-22.
A.E. Peacock Collegiate used the most electricity per day at roughly 2,000 KWH, while Riverview consumed the most natural gas per day at over 15 gigajoules.
Trustee Crystal Froese wondered how the division was managing its energy needs since utility costs are “crazy” and how PSSD was handling its natural gas bulk purchases since the contract expired in 2026.
Prairie South was forced to pay $480,000 more on natural gas this year because of the carbon tax, which was not included in the original delivery contract, said Baiton. Provincially, every division is attempting to bulk buy at the various manufacturing plants, although that’s difficult since each organization is at a different point in their contracts and the cost per gigajoule fluctuates.
“We don’t know at this point what the current contractors are going to offer us,” he stated, adding the division acquired the previous contract through a tendering process.
Trustee Patrick Boyle highlighted the consumption rate versus the total cost for electricity and how the carbon tax is having a “real-life impact” that is causing “a massive hit” to expenses. He also noted that the division is being asked to “eat” those costs over time.
The division spent $4,384,332 to complete 41 infrastructure last year, the report showed. Initiatives ranged from washroom upgrades at Assiniboia Elementary School for $3,656 to washroom/change room upgrades at Mossbank School for $482,939.
With the new joint-use school, Baiton said construction is proceeding well and the warm weather has assisted contractors and helped save costs. He noted that the division website features daily photos from the site, which should allow students to follow the project’s progress from the ground up.
He added that the school should be open by September 2025.
The next PSSD board meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 9.
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