EDMONTON — Alberta’s education minister says he wants to build 400 schools in the province over the next decade.
Thomas Lukaszuk says he also wants to change the way schools are paid for.
Currently, the province pays cash up front to build new schools, which means only approximately five to seven new schools can be built annually.
Lukaszuk says that’s like asking someone to live in a tent until they’ve saved enough money for buy a house for cash.
He says it would be better to amoritize the cost of the building and write off the depreciation — much like taking out a mortgage.
He also wants to find other groups to partner in building schools.
“I’m looking for a municipality to put in a public library in a school, I’m looking for a YMCA or a Boys and Girls club to co-locate,” he says. “I’m looking for a daycare to co-locate in schools to create community hubs.”
Debbie Engel, chairwoman of the Edmonton Catholic School Board, says she’s excited about the new schools but hopes the government has learned about the limitations of public-private partnerships.
She says they have created challenges for schools over permission to rent out space and the ability to build portable classrooms.
On Edmonton’s Public School Board, vice-chair Sarah Hoffman is also open to the idea being proposed by Lukaszuk, but hopes that it won’t take away from what existing schools need.
“We would really like to see a balance between supporting schools in established neighbourhoods that need upgrades as well as building in new neighbourhoods where there is a need for new schools,” she says.