Noble Central modernization project announced

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Infrastructure Minister Ric McIver announced Tuesday the Alberta government’s commitment to modernize Noble Central School, news greeted by thunderous applause by students, staff and community members.

The school serves about 240 students from Early Childhood Services through Grade 12. The announcement was embraced as welcome news by Palliser’s Board of Trustees, particularly Board Vice-Chair Don Zech, a former student and administrator of the school.

Zech attended Noble Central School from Grade 1 through Grade 12, serving as the valedictorian of the Class of 1962. He returned to the school from 1979-1989, serving as vice-principal and principal.

In 1979, Zech recalled, he was working on his graduate degree in special education, and even then he worried about the accessibility of the three-storey school, with areas accessible only by stairs. He said this modernization will result in a more accessible and inclusive school for future generations.

“Noble Central School is near and dear to my heart,” Zech said. “It’s been part of my life since the first day I entered public education.”

Minister McIver said the project will not only enhance accessibility but will provide mechanical, electrical and exterior upgrades. The school office, now located at the top of a set of stairs, will be relocated to enhance entrance security.

“You’re the cause of all this,” McIver told Noble Central students, “because you’re so important. In 10 or 20 years, you’ll be running this place. You’ll be the teachers. . .”

Palliser Superintendent Kevin Gietz told students the modernization will create inconvenience and challenge, but will provide “a great opportunity for us to move forward and create a learning space for you and your teachers.”

Extending his own heartfelt thanks to the minister and the province, Principal Scott Oikawa said, "Please be assured this investment in Noble Central will be a fruitful one with a positive and lasting effect."

Students presented the minister a banner stating “The future looks bright at Noble Central.” That hadn’t always been the case. Zech recalled taking part in three reviews in just nine years of the school when student numbers dwindled and left the sustainability of the facility in doubt.

Village of Nobleford Mayor Don McDowell said the community has doubled population to 1,200 in the past decade.

“This facility is in need of an upgrade and it’s the perfect time,” he said.

The original part of the school opened in Fall 1949, with a first major addition in 1953. The gymnasium was the last major structural change to the school, nearly 40 years ago.

Details about the cost of the project or timeline were not announced.