Two modular classrooms coming to Jennie Emery

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Trustees Debbie Laturnus, left, and Esther Willms talk to students and staff.

The Jennie Emery Elementary School community celebrated the 20th birthday of Jennie Emery Elementary School Friday with an amazing gift from Alberta Education —announcement that the school will receive two modular classrooms for 2014-15.

The two classrooms are the result of a multi-year effort by Palliser Regional Schools Board and administration to address a space crunch at the school which is home to about 470 students attending the early learning program and kindergarten through Grade 4.  The school is also offers a before- and after-school program.

Palliser Trustees Debbie Laturnus and Esther Willms made the surprise announcement to the cheers of a crowd gathered to mark 20 years to the day that students first attended classes at the Coaldale school.

“I have to tell you we didn’t get our request for one portable classroom,” Laturnus said, after explaining that Palliser has requested a modular classroom three years in a row. “I’m thrilled to tell you, absolutely thrilled to tell you, we’re getting two portable classrooms next year.”

Space has been an issue since even before the school opened in 1994. The school opened with two additions that weren’t part of the original building plan. Modulars were added in 1997, but removed six years later when they needed repair work.

In 2012, renovations were made to create additional classroom spaces, and inspections occurred to determine whether other areas of the school could be safely remodeled to be classrooms.

“You’ve seen the results, as we converted space for classrooms everywhere we could safely do so,” Willms said.

In summer 2013, the school received a $300,000 facelift in the form of a new roof.

Laturnus also thanked Palliser’s Facility Services staff for their efforts in November to address a water leak under the building that resulted in areas being flooded. The school was back in business after one day.

Several former staff of the school attended the celebration that included renditions of the school song and Happy Birthday. Host and teacher Doug Speelman is one of seven on staff who’ve been at the school since the first year. Marilyn Perverseff, the first principal of the school, and architect Alvin Fritz were among the special guests. Perverseff stood beside Principal Sherrie Nickel, in her first year at JEES, as current and former staff posed for photos as the event wrapped up.

“There have been changes in administration,” said Speelman, during the program. “The people that left were great people, and the people who came were awesome as well. As a staff, we’ve been very fortunate.”

Mayor Kim Craig said the Town of Coaldale is fortunate to have excellent schools.

“Having a school like this is a real asset for our town,” he said.

For a complete list of modular classroom allocations, please visit