Overcrowded schools no surprise, says immigration expert

Division says it cannot wait until 2013 for new schools from province


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This article was published 15/12/2010 (4427 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A prominent advocate for refugee rights in Winnipeg says recent overcrowding in the Seven Oaks School Division shouldn’t come as a surprise to provincial education officials.

Recent reports have indicated the division is facing an overcrowding “crisis” and Seven Oaks officials say the problem is due in part to a recent influx of new Canadians in north Winnipeg.

Marty Dolin, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council and a former MLA for Kildonan, said the writing was on the wall but the government didn’t read it.

Rob Brown Traffic in front of Maples Collegiate slows to a standstill most mornings from 8:50 to 9:05 a.m. as students converge on the institution.

“The province has pledged to bring 20,000 immigrants to the province by 2014, which is great,” he said. “(But) there should be no surprise this was going to happen.”

Dolin said little thought has been given to the educational needs of newcomers.

Recently-elected Seven Oaks trustee Derek Dabee said he is concerned that the educational needs of newcomers in the area may not be met.

“This could discourage interested families in moving to the area,” he said, adding at least two additional schools are needed in Seven Oaks.

Sisler High School is currently Winnipeg’s largest public school, with a student population of 1,788. However, Maples Collegiate is expected to have more than 1,800 students by 2013.

Seven Oaks School Board chair Evelyn Myskiw said the province needs to address the issue of overcrowding in the division immediately.

“This cannot wait until a provincial budget announcement in 2013,” she said.

Supt. Brian O’Leary said the division requested two new school sites — two 10-acre parcels in Amber Trails and Riverbend for kindergarten to Grade 8 and kindergarten to Grade 5 schools respectively — more than a year ago.

“We’re overcrowded everywhere. How can the province say no?” he asked.

O’Leary said the province’s current funding formula does not account for a 5% growth that the division is currently experiencing.

“That means having to add teachers but not really being able to pay them,” he said. “That is not enriching kids’ education.”

O’Leary added the division has also hit its limit when it comes to the amount of students it can bus daily.
Myskiw said the division will not bus students for more than an hour. She noted new schools were needed immediately.

“Where did the province think the kids were going to go to school?” she asked.

Myskiw said Seven Oaks currently has more than 10,000 students enrolled, of which nearly 3,000 are bussed to and from division schools.

Education Minister Nancy Allan could not outline any specific plans for Seven Oaks, but noted the province responded with an adjusted enrolment grant of an additional $3.2 million last year to deal with overcrowding issues. She said the province will continue to work with the school board on dealing with the matter.

“More schools, more portable classrooms are all solutions that are still on the table,” she said.

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