Medicine Hat News

New Catholic school designed to be most accessible in Alberta


The Medicine Hat Catholic School Board says designs for a new school aim to make it the most accessible building in the province while leaving a blueprint for architects to use for future school designs.

The division is planning to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation to design the new Holy Trinity Academy, which will replace St. Francis Xavier School, with features including modern wheelchair access, drop-down tables and braille along the wall.

“An example is wheelchairaccessible doors,” explains superintendent Dwayne Zarichiny. “So you hit a button and the door opens, but in practice, if you’ve ever tried to use those doors, even if you’re helping someone who’s in a wheelchair, they’re not really that fun.”

Following recommendation from the Rick Hansen Foundation, Holy Trinity Academy will be designed with sliding doors providing wheelchair-bound students ample room to access the building.

“In the science lab or any other type of art room or so on, you have tables that will drop and be accessible not only to students in wheelchairs, but also to students that just might be smaller or have other needs.”

Other features include using painted lines on the floor and a colour-coded map system so new students can easily find their way to their classrooms.

The division is following guidelines in place by RHF, however they have plans to work with a former architect with the foundation who is passionate in helping the division improve accessibility.

On Tuesday board trustees learned that a digital rendering of the exterior of Holy Trinity Academy will be available next week, allowing trustees to see what the outside of the school will look like.

Once exterior plans have been approved, work on interior plans can begin. Zarichiny says the division hopes to host an open house in September for parents and students.

“We would have an open house night where all of the renderings are available,” says Zarichiny. “We have 3-D walkthroughs where folks can put on a pair of glasses and actually walk through the building (virtually).”

Later this year the division expects to award building tenders so construction can begin.

2024-25 Budget

MHCBE is expecting an increase in funding of more than $290,000 in its 2024-25 budget.

The increased funds will come from higher student enrolment and adjustments to the division’s funding model.

However, funding is not expected from the province to supplement the increased cost in learning supplies and cost of living. “It’s a good-news story as we can see it is more money supporting new students coming into the division,” said Greg MacPherson, secretary treasurer. “Unfortunately, it’s not giving us the additional funding to support the additional costs that we’re seeing.”

The division is still waiting on final projection enrolment numbers from all schools, and trustees will meet to approve the 2024-25 budget on May 27.

Waitlist for sports academy

More than 100 students are interested in joining Notre Dame Academy’s new volleyball and basketball academy as the division looks to accommodate more students.

Catholic board trustees discussed ways they can open spaces in the sport academy by providing more gymnasium space and splitting it into smaller groups.

“They’re looking at instead of offering so many slots in one gymnasium at a time, looking at splitting the gymnasiums into smaller groups as opposed to one larger group and increasing the size,” said trustee Nick Gale. “But they’re waiting on facilities right now, that’s the big holdup.”





Alberta Newspaper Group