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New school planned to replace one of the oldest in Louis Riel School Division

Ecole Varennes is seen on Feb 1. 2023 (CTV News Winnipeg Photo) Ecole Varennes is seen on Feb 1. 2023 (CTV News Winnipeg Photo)
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The Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) is taking steps to replace one of its older school buildings in the division with a modern building.

The division recently presented plans for the new Ecole Varennes building in North St. Vital. The school, which serves students in kindergarten to Grade 8, was originally constructed in 1951, one year after the 1950 flood.

A slide from Number 10 Architectural Group shows a rendering of the proposed replacement for Ecole Varennes school (Submitted photo: Number 10 Architectural Group)

“This school was originally built as a flood relief school; it was put up very quickly,” said Jeff Anderson, associate superintendent with the division. “And at the time that it was constructed, it wasn't meant to be a long-term school, it was meant to have a lifespan of about 25 years. Therefore, we're on year 72 here.”

While the school has had some modifications done, a recent study the division commissioned said extensive work would be require to keep the building modern.

“They concluded that for the amount of work that needs to be done on the building, you could construct a new school for an equivalent sum of money,” Anderson said. “And their recommendation was that the school division consider constructing a new school on the same lot. And that's what we have done.”

A slide from Number 10 Architectural Group shows a rendering of the proposed replacement for Ecole Varennes school (Submitted photo: Number 10 Architectural Group)

The school division has submitted a priority capital project request for the new school, which would be built where the playground and field area currently is. The former school site would be demolished and the playground area would be built there.

Anderson said the design plan has been finalized, with the help of Number 10 Architectural Group. He says feedback to the school design has been positive.

“If we look at Winnipeg as a whole over the last 20, 25 years, we haven't seen any construction of a new school in an established neighborhood; all new schools have been on the periphery of the city in new developments,” he said. “And the main reaction of this community is that they're excited to see that the potential for rejuvenation of their community for a significant investment, provincial funds to offer a facility that they feel and rightfully so that their students deserve.

Anderson added that although regular maintenance is done, the new school will also allow Ecole Varennes to be equal to other schools in the city.

A slide from Number 10 Architectural Group shows a rendering of the proposed replacement for Ecole Varennes school (Submitted photo: Number 10 Architectural Group)

“When we look at our schools in existing neighborhoods, we find that the oldest buildings, many of these buildings don't even have air conditioning,” he said. “So, they get very hot in this in the summer months and the fall. We have been investing as the division into retrofitting older buildings with air conditioning. This is one of the things that we would like to see for this community access to amenities that are found in other schools in our division and elsewhere.”

The current estimated cost for the school is $40 million, which could change as the process goes forward. There is no current timeline for the new school to be built, Anderson said.

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