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Architect selected for Magrath modernization project

Posted on April 3, 2014 by Westwind Weekly

It only requires a glance at the architectural firm’s track record with Westwind School Division to know plans for Magrath School’s major modernization is in good hands.

In late January Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver announced funding approval for Magrath School, one of six school projects in southern Alberta as part of the Building Alberta Plan.

Westwind School Division is proud to announce it has selected Ferrari Westwood Babits Architects – one of five applicants to respond to the request for proposals – as architect for the multi-million dollar renovations.

There are many factors which go into choosing an architect including experience, proximity and past history with the Division. Ferrari Westwood Babits certainly has the latter with Westwind, as it was architect for modernizations at Raymond Elementary, Junior and Senior High schools and more recently, the soon-to-be completed Cardston Elementary School.

“The modernization of a school facility is an important process that will have an impact on students for the next 50 years.  We are excited  to harness the experience and vision of Ferrari Westwood in this project,“ said Ken Sommerfeldt, Superintendent of Schools.

After funding approval for the project had been approved, Westwind senior administration met with Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Education to discuss parameters for the modernization, the budget and expectations of Westwind in the process. The budget for the Magrath School modernization has been set at just over $17 million.

Although everyone would love to see construction begin at spring’s first thaw, Superintendent Ken Sommerfeldt said at least a third of the time on a capital project of this scope goes into planning and getting a final design down on paper.

With another third spent laying the foundation and a final third for construction, he said a best case scenario would see the renovated Magrath School completed by August of 2017.

The next step will be to select a prime consultant and then general contractor and Westwind hopes to have those partners in place before June.

While it will still be some time before actual modernization work begins, senior and school administration will soon need to start looking at the ‘decanting’ or moving of students to allow for learning to continue during construction. Due to the size of the project the work can’t be done all at once, meaning students will likely need to be moved in stages.

With no other school facilities to move some of those students into on a temporary basis, an off-site building in Magrath will need to be selected and renovated.

Community partners were already engaged in the project in a two-day value management exercise this past September. Westwind School Division, Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure brought together town officials, school staff, parents and other community partners to tour the school and see some of the challenges resulting from the current layout. Built in 1952 the school has seen seven additions over the years, the last in 1973.

After the tour the stakeholders looked at the needs of the school and features the community sees as valuable to develop a priority list. Divided into three teams, each came up with a conceptual design for the modernized school.

Sommerfeldt said there will be more opportunities for the community to provide input. A design strategy session will see invited partners gather with Ferrari Westwood Babits Architects to look over a refined version of the sketches made earlier. That process will see the three options arrived at earlier boiled down to one.

“They’ll look at things like how many teaching stations do we need?” he said. “Here are the big blocks they have to go in, now how can we use the space to achieve the things we need?”

The earlier value management exercise saw some of the partners express an interest in having the modernization meet not only the needs of the school, but also the community. A lack of public meeting space in Magrath was among the issues mentioned.

“One thing has been made clear, the footprint – the square footage of the building – won’t be increased unless that comes through partnerships with the community,” said Sommerfeldt.

Once a consensus is reached on a final option, the next state of the project would be to come up with working drawings. Once finished, an open house will be held – such as the one for Carston Elementary School – so the community can see what the end product will look like.

The Magrath School modernization project would then go to tender, likely in February or March of 2015.

Suggested cutline for attached photograph: Various community partners tour the Magrath School library as part of the value management exercise this past fall to help determine some options for the modernization project.

For more information on happenings within the Westwind School Division, go to our website at or check us out on our social media network through Facebook at Westwind School Division No. 74 or on Twitter at Westwind Division 74.

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