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Swandel warns of division's plans

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City councillor Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) is wading into school board politics and he doesn't like what he sees.

Swandel said his residents should "fear" the direction in which the Pembina Trails School Division is going over educating children in the massive and sprawling Waverley West development.

Pembina Trails is abandoning its plans for reasonable-sized community schools throughout Waverley West, in favour of large-scale expansion of existing schools that will force children to travel long distances across major roadways, Swandel said.

Swandel wants residents to attend today's open houses on the proposed expansion of Bonnycastle School in Waverley Heights to let the division know the quality of education for children matters more than keeping costs down.

The open houses, from 2 to 4 p.m., and 6 to 8 p.m., outline proposals to expand Bonnycastle with eight new classrooms.

The Free Press reported last July that lower-than-expected enrolment from Waverley West, along with empty desks in existing schools, had led Pembina Trails to revise its needs for new schools in the area.

Superintendent Lawrence Lussier said last summer instead of six kindergarten-to-Grade-8 schools, and one or two high schools, Pembina Trails would need only one high school and four K-8 schools in Waverley West.

Swandel doesn't like that.

The division's plans are an eye-opener for residents "to what I see as negative impacts being put upon them with a cost-based approach to school planning, rather than a well-thought-out policy approach that respects existing communities and delivers quality education to all.

"These impacts include shrinking recreation space, new traffic concerns, new student-safety concerns, and changing school social dynamics to name a few," said the councillor.

A spokeswoman for Pembina Trails said the division would not respond directly to Swandel.

She said "the Bonnycastle expansion of eight classrooms will provide space for about 200 additional students."

"Bonnycastle's Sept. 30, 2012 enrolment was 508 students. We are projecting 630 students for September 2013.

"The catchment for Bonnycastle is currently under review by the board. If it changes, the board will make the decision at a public board meeting in the near future," she said.

Any expansion would need provincial approval and funding from the public schools finance board.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 6, 2013 A5

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Updated on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:21 AM CST: replaces photo

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