New schools policy quietly changes


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/09/2015 (2808 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Education Minister James Allum seemed genuinely surprised.

That the NDP had for many years a policy that school divisions had to put kids from new suburbs into empty school desks in older neighbourhoods before the province would even consider building a new school, that came as news to Allum.

There was even a panicky time among parents when the policy required looking to low-enrolment schools in contiguous divisions.

That’s not his policy, said Allum in an interview we had recently.

“Our preferred way is to work in partnership with the school divisions…based on their capital needs and capital requests,” Allum said.

I’d been asking for a while for the wish list of new schools across the province, the requests that school divisions put in their five-year capital forecasts.

Alas, Allum’s people told me that the public schools finance board doesn’t share that information, it would be up to each school division to decide whether to tell me. They did say they can’t recall any requests for replacement schools to be built for existing older schools.

We know that Winnipeg School Division wants a new school way, way up in the northwest corner for the Waterford Green housing development. Brandon and Neepawa want schools to handle growth, Louis Riel needs a second school in Sage Creek, where the first one is being built. Lots of requests drifting around.

While refusing to discuss where new schools are coming, Allum made it clear that the fall will bring announcements of new schools, gyms, and science labs across the province: “You can expect we’ll be very active,” he said, propehsying a peripatetic minister spreading good news as the leaves fall.

Gosh, that would have nothing to do with April 19, 2016, would it?

You can’t accuse the NDP of always playing politics with its capital budget, though that probably won’t stop the Tories and Liberals from doing so. In recent years, the Selinger and Doer governments have built several new schools in the NDP heartland in Steinbach, Winkler, Mitchell, and now Waverley West….maybe all those new schools will keep Kelvin Goertzen under 80 per cent in Steinbach in the spring election.

The Selinger government has funded 66 new high school labs and 14 new school gyms, Allum pointed out in our interview. “I want to make sure we continue to build shops,” he said. And there is pending legislation that requires that the mandatory child care centre in every new school be incorporated into the main school building.

“Child care centres remain a critical part of our education program. You can’t put a day care centre out in the back yard,” he said.

But back to that policy change.

It’s a big one. Remember that kids moving into Waverley West had to go to school in older neighbourhoods in old Fort Garry, and kids in Sage Creek have been going to schools in Windsor Park.

But while the NDP is now building schools where kids live, even though there are still empty desks elsewhere in the division, the 2008-surprise-moratorium on closing schools with low enrolment remains.



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