In its way, the system works

It would be easy for someone with nothing immediately at stake in the proposed school on Addington Drive to say the majority of neighbourhood residents — and all of city council — got it wrong to deny the zoning change needed to get the school built on that site.

It would be easy for someone with nothing immediately at stake in the proposed school on Addington Drive to say the majority of neighbourhood residents — and all of city council — got it wrong to deny the zoning change needed to get the school built on that site.

Especially considering that the denial may have bad consequences for three other schools that our region also badly needs.

But when did the laws change to say that the four new schools planned for our area have to be a package deal or no deal at all?

And when a community puts up a united front on an issue, what’s an elected council to do?

We are constantly being asked for input on decisions that affect us — how can council override such a strong and consistent opinion?

The people of Aspen Ridge were adamant they did not want a school with even a small high school component on a building site not originally planned and zoned for a high school.

By the time it came to vote on the structure plan for the area, fine points of how the project might or might not affect the community were really beside the point; the people had spoken.

At least on Monday, everyone had a convenient out: we can just blame the provincial government for trying to steamroll a package of P3 schools on an arbitrarily tight timeline, as much for ideological reasons as educational.

It seems everyone wants the school to be built, just not this way, and not at this site.

Fair enough. The school district, the city and Alberta Infrastructure ought to have a drawing board big enough to accommodate.

For the record, though, having high schools nearby isn’t such a bad thing.

We and our neighbours in Woodlea raised families with three high schools, a middle school and two elementary schools within five blocks of where we lived.

For our part, outside of potato chip bags and candy wrappers circulating in the breeze, it was far from being a problem.

With more than 2,500 students coming and going to all these schools every day for more than 30 years now, there has been no gang activity that we noticed.

There was once some spray-can vandalism, but who can say the schools were the cause?

The traffic does get heavy for a half hour twice a day, students jaywalk everywhere, they sometimes walk on people’s lawns — but then, so do I.

A student driver ran over and killed our first family dog — and had the courage and courtesy to knock on our door to tell us. I told the distraught young man it was my fault the dog had gotten out of our yard, and we both bore the consequences in our own ways.

Overall, our lives were enriched for having high schools across the street from our home.

But that’s all beside the point as far as the school planned on Addington Drive is concerned.

Good decision or bad, we can be glad to live in a city where council has your back.

If significant groups of ratepayers come to a strong (and informed) consensus, we should be able to count on our councils to enact them.

Contrast this with the federal government’s behaviour with its omnibus crime bill and you can appreciate the democratic difference.

Going forward, our city planners should design neighbourhoods in a way that any area zoned for a future school should be designated for all kinds of schools, to a size suitable for its location.

Pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, it shouldn’t matter; what the district needs is what gets built. People who build or buy homes nearby would move in with that foreknowledge.

And they’ll probably find schools do make good neighbours.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

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