Public school offices returning to High River
Education: Foothills School Division moving out of old Okotoks RCMP detachment
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am
Foothills School Division employees are busting out of the old Okotoks police station and heading home.
The division announced on Jan. 15 at its public board meeting in Okotoks, it will start moving back to its division office in downtown High River in February — eight months after the building was ravaged by the June 20 flood. Division office staff has been located at the old RCMP station at Southridge Drive and Woodgate Road in Okotoks since Sept. 1.
“We are glad to be getting back to our office in High River,” said Foothills School Division (FSD) assistant superintendent-corporate services Drew Chipman in an interview after the meeting. “We see moving back as part of the solution to helping rebuild the community and that is where our offices are and have been.
“We have relations built up with the community and the vendors. Our priority has always been High River and that’s where we want to be.”
The move is expected to take place around the Family Day weekend. However, the staff won’t be taking up the entire division office. The 20 Foothills employees returning will use just the main floor. The cost was picked up by insurance.
The downstairs offices, which were used by technical staff, are not ready. Those eight employees will continue to work out of Okotoks Junior High School for the time being.
Chipman said the division considered other options, including setting up shop in Aldersyde, before deciding to move back to High River.
The return to the downtown office building, which is owned by the school division, may be temporary, as the division has outgrown the building.
The school division signed a letter of intent in September to start exploring the possibility of sharing a structure in High River with the MD of Foothills, the Town of High River and the provincial government.
“We are certainly looking at going into a joint building, that is the target for us,” Chipman said. “If that works out it is great, if not, we will explore all of our options.”
High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said he had shared many of the citizens’ concerns the school division would be pulling up stakes due to the flood.
“Yes, I heard those concerns and you are darn right I was worried,” said Snodgrass, who received assurance from the division prior to Christmas it would likely be returning.
Snodgrass said the return of the division is an important boost to revitalize of the downtown core, adding businesses are continuing to return after being nearly wiped out by the flood.
He said he has his fingers crossed a shared new facility can be worked out soon.
The current shared High River-MD of Foothills building on Macleod Trail, which still has not fully re-opened, would likely stay in place. However, the proposed shared facility could be used by the High River library, bylaw enforcement and other services, according to Snodgrass.
Hubert Aumeier, owner of Evelyn’s Memory Lane Café in High River, said he is looking forward to having the division office up and running again.
“I did a lot of catering for lunch and things like that for the division,” he said.
He said more important than him having to make more sandwiches is the boost it gives the community.
“The main thing is they are coming back to High River,” Aumeier said. “It is super for the community. Every step of people returning is a positive. I think it will give people more confidence.”
Evelyn’s was the first downtown business to reopen after the flood when it opened its door in early July. He said the change of clientele at Evelyn’s since July is an indication of High River coming back.
“We used to have 50 or 60 construction workers in here a day,” Aumeier said. “Now we have a few more office people, more locals and more people traveling coming in.”