School division fights for more schools
Monday, Mar 20, 2017 06:00 am
The Board of Trustees of Rocky View Schools (RVS) approved the division’s three-year capital plan March 16, but not before Board Chair Colleen Munro had some strong words for the province about the need for additional schools in the division.
“Three or four years ago when we got three new schools in Rocky View, we thought that perhaps we were starting to be listened to by the government, that they understood we are the fifth largest school division in the province, that we had gone through an enormously difficult time trying to accommodate students,” she said.
“Clearly that wasn’t the (reality) and we are now back to the point where we haven’t had any new schools in two-and-a-half years. Somehow we have to change the government’s perception of RVS as being a rural school division versus the three or four main (metropolitan) ones in this province.”
Munro said the board had tried “six ways to Sunday” to engage with the province on this issue, including talking to MLAs, partner municipalities and Rocky View County. She said a private invitation to Minister of Education David Eggen to meet with the board has been made.
“The Minister of Education has put that invitation off and said that he will talk with us at his convenience. That’s wrong,” she said. “We are a school board that is one of the fastest growing school boards in the province and the fact that we can’t meet the Minister of Education face-to-face and talk about these particular challenges is not only a slap in the face to this board of trustees, it is a slap in the face to our constituents. I think that needs to be said publically and hopefully the minister will take us up on that invitation sooner rather than later.”
RVS’ 2018 to 2020 Capital Plan includes the construction of 14 new schools throughout the division, including five in Airdrie, two in Chestermere, Cochrane and Langdon and one in Irricana, Crossfield and Springbank.
According to RVS Director of Planning and Facilities Colette Winter, to keep up with population growth in Airdrie, a new school must be constructed each year. In Cochrane and Chestermere, a new school is needed approximately every two-and-a-half years.
The capital plan also includes the renovation or expansion of an additional nine schools throughout the division.
While RVS can provide information about student growth and the need for new schools or the modernization of old ones, it has no control over what the province decides to fund.
“Our schools are generally full, everywhere. This isn’t a single community issue,” said Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach.
“These are priorities that we’ve identified and believe strongly are needed. This is an important document to provide information…and hopefully they’ll see that space is needed.”
School boards are required to submit three-year capital plans each year to Alberta Education by April 1.