Who needs the UK when we’ve got Connaught?
Article: Destiny Kaus – A&C Writer
The Save Our Connaught Heritage committee lobbies to keep Connaught School alive.
“This is Regina’s Hogwarts,” states Rene Dumont: former chairperson for the Regina community council and active member of the Save Our Connaught Heritage committee.
Located at the corner of Elphinstone Street and 13th Avenue, Connaught holds prime real estate in Regina’s Cathedral Village neighborhood.
Connaught’s Stage One Submission Document, which talks about Connaught’s historical value and construction costs, states that “the heritage value of Connaught School lies in its connection with the development of education in Regina, its architect, and its architectural style.”
This Stage One Submission Document goes on to explain how Connaught is the oldest school in Regina that is still being used for its original purpose: to provide students with a place to learn. James Henry Puntin, the original architect, hailed from England but immigrated to Canada in 1904. He built Connaught in 1912 in a Gothic style, which mirrors many of the school structures in England.
Rene Dumont simply states the position of the Save Our Connaught Heritage committee: “[The Board of Education and the Ministry of Education] want to replace the building. [The Save Our Connaught Heritage committee] want to keep the building.”
He explains how replacing this monument with a modern school building will disrupt the eclectic vibe of the surrounding community. Dumont expands on the multiple discrepancies he encountered while serving on the community council.
“I’ve been on the council for 12 years and they never ever mentioned anything [about structural issues].”
About a year and a half ago, the facilities team at Connaught mentioned they were concerned about the school, particularly its foundation. Last April, Dumont and his committee met with the facilities team and asked them to point out these specific issues. However, they refused.
“Show us where it’s falling apart!” Dumont exclaimed, later stating that “they didn’t want to show us.”
Dumont lobbied for plans to restore the school while still keeping its heritage.
“We wanted to replace the really fancy front porch, maybe put original windows back in.”
Thus, the community council submitted a document to the Provincial Auditor, asking for further investigation on the building in hopes to save it. When the council received a response to this document, Dumont discovered a host of errors.
“There were actually math errors in their numbers.”
Dumont explains how in an estimate, the architectural firm in charge added 20 per cent for contingency fees to the 10 per cent for unforeseen costs. Firms are only supposed to add 10 per cent for unforeseen costs and not include percentage amounts for contingency fees.
“You’d think a professional architecture firm would have someone with a calculator.”
When Dumont and his team asked the Ministry of Education how much it would cost to rebuild the school and how much it would cost to replace the school, they received these numbers: $23 million to rebuild the school and $18.8 million to replace it.
Contrary to these numbers, Saskatoon rallied to save their “castle schools” and estimated they could do it with a cost of $6 million to $9 million.
Dumont said “If Saskatoon can do it, why can’t we?”
Though Save Our Connaught met all throughout the summer and continues to meet, they keep running into legal issues.
“We met with lawyers over the summer about our right to have heritage properties.”
However, ownership of a heritage property can only happen if the owner requests it. In this case, the school board owns Connaught and is not willing to relinquish control.
Leslie Charleton, the local business owner of Groovy Mama and mother to two Connaught students, has heard both sides concerning this issue.
“Some want a new building and a lot want to keep the heritage at the old school. But the biggest dissenting voice I hear is the worry about an open concept school, of it being like a clangy, loud shopping mall. In a neighborhood like this, with such a diverse neighborhood, some kids do have other needs where they might need a little bit more attention. How do you do that in a huge classroom size?”
Rene Dumont also mentions that “If you talk to teachers, they don’t want anything to do with [the open concept approach].”
A decision upon Connaught School has not yet been reached. The Save Our Connaught Heritage Committee continues to work with Heritage Regina, Heritage Saskatchewan, and Heritage Canada to try to gain support.