Over the month of January, I met with several individuals and groups about the lottery for Lillian Osborne High School. This includes:
- Elected colleagues including MLA Thomas Dang and Councillor Tim Cartmell
- School Councils including Lillian Osborne, Strathcona and Nellie Carlson
- Over 50 constituents, via a Ward F Conversation event and individual calls
- Updating my Trustee colleagues and sharing feedback with Division staff
The conversations above highlighted that although these issues have been on the radar of the Division for several years, we need to equip communities with more information around:
- how student enrolment is outpacing new school construction and
- how this pressure has led the Division to develop the Growth Control Model and lottery process
- why we need to amp up the advocacy for more school space NOW.
I invite you to read through this PowerPoint presentation that I prepared for the Nellie Carlson School Council meeting. The content is relevant to ANYONE in Edmonton who cares about public education and wants to see adequate, sustainable, predictable funding happen.
The only way to really solve the challenges that arise in a lottery or any other growth control process is with more school space for students. This includes both more new schools and modernizations of existing schools. The province, not the school board, decides when and where to fund schools.
When there is a need for more new schools AND a deferred maintenance bill of almost $1 billion AND it takes around three years to build a school AND there’s a frozen education budget, unfortunately hard decisions have to be made. For students wanting to attend Lillian Osborne, Svend Hansen, Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour, Dr. Lila Fahlman and David Thomas King schools, that means a lottery for next year. These are not the preference of the Division or constituents, so it’s a matter of making the best decision amidst less than ideal choices.
For those that have other suggestions to address the shortage of space at Level 3 schools (see Growth Control Model), I hear you and continue to share that feedback with Division administration. The tricky part is, without having more space as an option, it’s difficult to find a solution that doesn’t just shift the problem from one community to another.
Our Board wants to see every child have a great classroom in a well maintained school that is equipped with the tools and resources students need. I want students who choose to attend the school close to their home to be able to get in.
However, across the Division we are FULL. Some schools are feeling that pinch more than others, which is why you see the lottery in place. From a Division-wide perspective, projections show we are going to be OVER full with no more “let’s squeeze students in over here” spaces left by 2027 unless new schools and more modernizations are built. As it takes ~3 years to build a new school, we need those provincial funding announcements to come soon.
I think the time is ripe to really go hard on advocacy. This presentation I provided to Nellie Carlson School Council will help provide you with some of the basic info on what the current situation is, and how new school funding happens.
You’ve got a new board full of Trustees who want to work hard and advocate for adequate, sustainable and predictable education funding. I encourage you to add your voice by emailing the province as well as your Trustee.