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This article was published 12/8/2012 (3363 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Parents of preschoolers in the massive Waverley West development are demanding to know -- will their kids ever be able to walk to school?
Magda Paterson lives on Bridalwood in the northeast Bridgwater Forest quadrant, abutting an empty field that's a possible future school site. Her kids are one and soon-to-be four.
"We always see in our neighbourhood kids under five -- in my little corner of my street, there are 12 of them," Paterson said. "That's the demographic moving into the neighbourhood."
Paterson would like some assurances from the province and Pembina Trails they're aware just how many little kids from her neighbourhood will occupy school desks within the next five years.
Pembina Trails School Division wants four kindergarten to Grade 8 schools and one high school built in Waverley West, phased-in over many years. Pembina Trails is in discussion with the province over where and when the first elementary school will be built. Pembina Trails superintendent Lawrence Lussier said recently there are already 400 students from Waverley West scattered among 20 division schools.
Finding a school wasn't supposed to be this difficult. "I back onto what's designated as a school site in the development plan," Paterson said.
She's been told her kids would go to R.H.G. Bonnycastle School, on Chancellor Drive about 2.7 kilometres from their home.
Friends in Bridgwater Lakes in the northwest quadrant face further distances, Paterson said: "It neighbours Whyte Ridge, though they're not really connected. They're supposed to be sending their kids to Whyte Ridge School."
The southeast quadrant? "Southpoint, they're supposed to go to Chancellor School, though Bairdmore School would make more sense."
Wherever Waverley West kids end up going to school in the near future, they'll have to be bused across Waverley Street or Bishop Grandin Boulevard --or both -- and possibly other major roads. "All of these are across something busy," said Paterson.
Like many young parents dealing with the school system for the first time, Paterson was unaware it's the province that builds new schools, not the division. She's phoned her city councillor about the school site, but not her trustees.
An aide to Education Minister Nancy Allan said under election laws, the government can't talk about spending plans during the current byelection in Fort Whyte, the riding in which Paterson's home sits.
Building schools in Waverley West is complicated by a government policy which requires school divisions to fill existing empty desks before the province will spend $10 to $20 million to build a new elementary school.
Once-crammed schools in Whyte Ridge, Lindenwoods and Waverley Heights now have some empty seats. Bonnycastle, however, has grown by 139 students in five years, and this past year had almost twice as many kids in kindergarten as in Grade 6.
Further complicating the calculation of how many empty desks will be available in future years is a government policy being implemented next month -- one that will cap class size at 20 students in K-3 over the next five years. Empty desks in a class of 25 may not be empty in a class of 20, and accommodating smaller class sizes may require all available classrooms be gobbled up.
Paterson said deputy education minister Gerald Farthing visited her neighbourhood this spring, talking to residents about the school site.
"He was just chatting, and asking what we knew of the school site. That certainly didn't give us a lot of comfort," Paterson said.
The province confirmed that Farthing walked around the neighbourhood in the spring, but did not elaborate.
Magda Paterson's family lives next to an empty field set aside as a possible future school site in the Waverley West development.
When a school would be built the the northeast quadrant of Waverley West is unknown, and there's no certainty that a school will ever be built on that particular piece of land.
Meanwhile, the distances from Paterson's home in the northeast quadrant of Waverley West to existing elementary schools in Pembina Trails School Division:
Chancellor 2.4 km
R.H.G. Bonnycastle 2.7 km
Bairdmore 4.7 km
Whyte Ridge 5.3 km
Van Walleghem 5.8 km
Ralph Maybank 5.9 km
Linden Meadows 6.3 km