September 25, 2013 by realrenewal
Despite receiving a report that flags problems with overcrowding and a funding model unable to deliver expected economic efficiencies from school closures, Regina’s public school board declared its 10 Year Plan a resounding success at last night’s board meeting. A review report declared the Plan was concluded and recommended annual monitoring should take the place of the original plan outline, with attention to a variety of options to even out enrolments, such as boundary changes.
“With the recommended conclusion of all of the actions of the Renewal Plan, and with the changes in the nature of capital funding, the Renewal Plan has reached its completion,” the review concluded. However, in a subsequent Leader-Post interview board chair Katherine Gagne said the Plan was still in effect, although the priorities had changed. She identified new schools in Harbour Landing and the Greens on Gardiner as the highest priorities going forward.
During the meeting, Gagne said the plan “has served as a very effective tool” and praised Regina Public’s administrative staff for “exceptional work” in carrying it out. Trustee Dale West congratulated the board for its diligence, stating most of the public would agree with the decisions carried out.
Director Julie MacRae credited the Plan “revitalization of the core urban areas,” citing two schools built in the Douglas Park/Arcola area. She added the Plan had been successful in eliminating $26 million in deferred maintenance, a reference to the backlog of repairs that are erased from the books when a school is closed.
Although the words ‘school closures’ were not uttered during the presentations, in total seven schools in low to mid-income inner city neighbourhoods were closed during the first six years of the Plan. Most of the closures were hotly protested by local residents, who saw the schools as integral to their neighbourhoods’ futures.
Two new schools were opened at a cost of roughly $19 million each, however neither of the schools – built seven blocks apart from one another – was intended to receive the students whose schools had closed. Just one ‘replacement’ school is under construction to date, Seven Stones.
The students whose schools were closed have filtered into surrounding schools, contributing to overloaded enrolments in some locations. The Plan promised just five elementary schools of more than 400 students by 2018, however there are now 15 such schools projected, with a 16th sitting on the cusp at 400.
In light of ongoing enrolment difficulties, a school boundary review will be launched this fall, with the promise of time set aside for public comment in January 2014. The changes are to be given final approval for the 2014-15 school year.