Renovations proposed for McNaughton High School

February 20, 2020, 5:06 pm
Kevin Weedmark

An area showing a new home ec space in the current library space on the west side of McNaughton High, and a rendering of a solarium that would be accessed through the new library.

Staff and students at McNaughton High School in Moosomin have been working on a proposal to reconfigure and update a couple of parts of the school.

The plan would be to develop a new home ec. lab in the current library space on the west side of the school, and rebuild the library where the home ec lab currently is at the front of the school.

The plan could include adding a solarium filled with natural light off the new library space.

The proposal has been submitted to the Southeast Cornerstone School Division and will be considered in budget deliberations this spring.

Needs identified

McNaughton principal Jeff St. Onge explained that the plan came together after the school identified some needed renovations.

“We do have some renovations that need to be done to the home ec lab, and we would also like to make upgrades to the library,” he said. “We were are at the point that we’re looking at those renovations and prioritizing. We decided, let’s put it all together as a comprehensive package. That’s how we ended up with the two things changing places so we can make better use of the space.

“Some of the problems that are happening in the home ec lab are the modern ovens are larger than the original ones, so when we put in the larger ones, some of the doors don’t open.”

Kitchens for a different era

Vice-Principal Sherrie Meredith said the home ec lab is for a different era.

“It’s set up now like a home kitchen. That’s what home ec used to be, but that’s not now. Home ec is now a lot of things. It is cosmetology, food studies, lots of integrated programming for some of our kids who have different needs. They do lots of different things, and they can get their food safe certification.”

Meredith said the location of the kitchens closer to where food is served would be a lot more convenient.

“The other day we had our commercial cooking class making supper and there was a lot of going back and forth. This location in the plan makes a lot more sense for the kitchens.”

“It would really help polish up our program,” said St. Onge. “It will optimize our efficiencies and enhance our program.”

“The new layout would include a commercial kitchen. There is a station for a commercial kitchen and a demo lab, as well as a handi-capable kitchen,” said Meredith.

“Right now we have four kitchens. This way we would have five kitchens and a commercial kitchen and one of them would be wheel chair accessible and handi-accessible which we don’t have right now,” adds St. Onge.

Meredith says the kitchens are an important part of the school.

“Food brings people together,” she said. “A lot of our kids go and do events with Skills Canada and do different baking competitions. One of our students, Nicole Taylor, went to a baking competition last spring. Troy Poole did an iron chef competition back when he was a student here.”

St. Onge said food is a bigger part of school events than many people may realize.

“There is an awful lot of food at events,” he said. “We ran an art gallery the other night and our kids did up the meat and dainty trays, so they do have those opportunities. As you know, we do the barbecues at the school and all our kids do that.”

Meredith said the new kitchens would be big a improvement.

“We will actually have way more counter space. The way it is right now they are like L-kitchens. I would say it makes group work more efficient.”

There would also be a cosmetology station in what is currently the library area.

A couple of possible layouts for a new library space at the front of McNaughton High School.

Library renewal

“Then we looked at the library,” says St. Onge. “Libraries have changed over the years. They used to be the place where you went for the research and now the research is done on a computer somewhere. That is how they research.

“Libraries are more about reading and having a quiet reading space and quiet working place and having the tools to do the research. We talked to the kids about what they would want in a library and they had lots of ideas.”

“Right now we use it for anything but a library,” says Meredith. “They find it is too busy. It has become more of a computer lab than a reading area.”

The students suggested they would like a light-filled space as the library.

“I think people feel better when they have natural light, and schools don’t have a lot,” said Meredith.

“Over the years we’ve closed a lot of our windows,” adds St. Onge. “We used to have three windows in every room, and now every room has one window.”

The proposal includes adding a solarium at the front of the school, accessible through the library.

Creative solutions

While increasing enrolment means there isn’t the space for programs at the high school there used to be, St. Onge said there are always creative ways to make the space work.

“We don’t have any extra space. If you’re in the gym, somebody’s in your room. If you’re in the industrial arts somebody’s in your room. We have to get very, very creative sometimes,” he said.

“One of our students is doing a mural and we had her in the back of the library working on it. That is not what libraries are for, but that is where the space was. So she had four sheets of plywood laid out on the floor and she was sketching and working. So we’re able to offer what we want, but we have to get creative about it and the people in the building have to be very flexible and know that somebody will be in the back room doing a different task sometimes.

“I would say our staff and our students have become very good at that over the years. We push really hard for our kids to have every possible opportunity. We want them to be able to do that independent art project even if we need to work hard to find the space for it.”

Meredith adds, “I know that we have fewer kids on spare than other schools. Our kids graduate with more credits because there’s opportunity here.”

Excited about possibilities

Meredith said she is excited about the possibilities with the proposed renovations.

“I think a project like this can revitalize a program,” she said. “Making the library into a more inviting space I would hope would encourage reading and those kinds of things instead of being on your phone.”

“It just gives them a boost” says St. Onge. “For a lot of kids their interest gets piqued by things that they see, hopefully this new space will inspire them.”