Public trustees frustrated with province

The Red Deer Public School District trustees and the board chair are frustrated that the provincial government still hasn’t announced funding for a new elementary school in Red Deer.

The Red Deer Public School District trustees and the board chair are frustrated that the provincial government still hasn’t announced funding for a new elementary school in Red Deer.

Overcrowding at south side elementary schools has forced most schools to convert their libraries, computer labs and music rooms into regular classrooms.

Trustees want more control locally over how school capital project dollars are spent.

“Our situation has been that we have desperately needed a new school in southeast Red Deer for years. We badly needed that school to open this past fall,” said Bill Stuebing, chair of the Red Deer Public School District.

This week, the school district passed its three-year capital plan and put addressing student accommodation needs in southeast Red Deer at the top of the list.

Trustees want a school built immediately in the Aspen Ridge neighbourhood to serve 450 students between kindergarten to Grade 5 and four new modular classrooms, with two going to Mattie McCullough Elementary School and two going to G.W. Smith Elementary School.

The problem is that local trustees can do priority lists, but they don’t hold the purse strings.

Stuebing said they were recently told by the provincial government that there will be no new projects and no new modulars during the next school year.

He said Red Deer Public School trustees even suggested looking at having a P-3 — a public private partnership — to build a new school because the need is so desperate, but the idea was shot down by the province.

“The projections — both from the government and our independent consultants — tell us that we’re going to continue to experience a significant growth in the number of students in the next few years. And the greatest part of that growth is going to be in south Red Deer. And our question obviously is where are we going to put them?,” Stuebing asked.

The Red Deer Public School District would also like to construct a kindergarten to Grade 8 facility in the Timberstone neighbourhood that would open by the fall of 2011, buy River Glen School from Chinook’s Edge School Division to house the Gateway Christian School Program and modernize Annie L. Gaetz Elementary School and Westpark Middle School. All of the projects depend on funding from and approval by the provincial government to move forward.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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