Sporting a brooch that read “Children first,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange toured a new school in Red Deer on Thursday, telling students that she works for them.
“You guys are my bosses,” LaGrange said upon entering some of the classrooms at Westpark Middle School, engaging with students, teachers and staff.
”What a beautiful school. So well thought out. I wish I was a young person again, so I could be part of the school, because I could see the enthusiasm in the students, the teachers and the staff,” she said after the tour.
“It’s so needed and timely, because there’s such growth in Red Deer.”
Asked about the upcoming provincial budget, LaGrange said her focus will be on improving student learning.
Speculation about the budget has turned to anxiety for some central Alberta groups after a panel found per capita spending in the province is the highest in Canada.
Among its 26 recommendations are reviews of health care and education spending, and also addressing high incomes for doctors, lowering administrative costs in schools, and requiring universities to get more of their funding through tuition.
LaGrange said the United Conservative Party is committed to education and will be doing everything in its power to provide the best possible education for each student.
“We are going to continue to build schools, and we’ll continue to ensure they’re the best schools we can provide, that they’re well staffed and we put teachers in front of students,” she said.
Asked what central Albertans can expect in the upcoming budget in regards to the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre expansion, and a much needed cath lab, LaGrange said the two local MLAs are strongly advocating for the hospital.
“We realize how important it is. The people of Red Deer have spoken very loudly. We have been able to make the case to Minister (of Health Tyler) Shandro of the disparity in funding, as how we as a city have received less per capita over the last decade, so we have shared that with him and we’re hoping for positive results,” she said.
She did not comment on how the provincial government plans to save money in education and where those savings would be.
Westpark Middle School principal Dean Pasiuk said it will be interesting to see what those cuts mean and how it’ll be implemented in schools.
“If they were to come, is that going to affect the teaching and learning of our students in our classrooms?
“It doesn’t worry me for our school. I think our school is up and running,” he added.
He said the school has capacity for 500 students, and already, it has 516 students who have been enrolled this year.
The principal added the school has the resources to accommodate up to 600 students with portable classrooms.