Trustees upset at lack of money for schools

Record enrolments of kindergarten students in southeast Red Deer and a government that refuses to recognize the need for more classrooms has trustees with Red Deer Public Schools beyond frustrated.

Record enrolments of kindergarten students in southeast Red Deer and a government that refuses to recognize the need for more classrooms has trustees with Red Deer Public Schools beyond frustrated.

They’re exasperated.

“Where are we going to put our kids, on the curb? Where are we going to educate these students?” asked trustee Lawrence Lee at Wednesday’s board meeting.

According to the government’s own utilization formula, the schools are at capacity, he said.

In Tuesday’s provincial budget, there was no new money to build schools or even add modular classrooms to overcrowded schools around the province in 2009-10.

But the province held out faint hope that some needs could be addressed if projects currently underway come in under budget.

Red Deer public trustees are holding out hope they can get two modular classrooms each at Mattie McCullough Elementary School, G. W. Smith Elementary School and Ecole Mountview Elementary.

“We absolutely must have those six modulars,” said school board chairman Bill Stuebing.

Two years ago it was projected the area would see 1,000 new elementary students and that prediction is becoming a reality.

“We’ve had record kindergartens the last two years and all the signs right now is next year will be a third record year.”

The board still needs a new school in Aspen Ridge right now to deal with the growing population in the southeast. But modulars are quicker, he said.

“We’ve made it clear to everybody this is not just a little wish list. This is a critical need.”

The library at Mattie McCullough was moved into a skate shack this year. Before that, it was moved to the hallway so the library could become another classroom but that location was condemned by the fire marshal, Stuebing said.

“We have classes all over the schools. There’s no free space. If we had really large broom closets we’d probably think about using those. We’re using every last square foot of space.”

Premier Ed Stelmach has flirted with the idea of debenture debt and with no end in sight to the need for more school infrastructure that’s a good idea, Stuebing said.

“Using a mortgage to build a school that will make a contribution to a community for an extended period of time — that’s good debt.”

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