February 10, 2017
For Immediate Release
New Census Data Proves the Canceled Mobile/Witless Bay Middle School Badly Needed: What’s the Plan?
Keith Hutchings, MHA for Ferryland, is urging the Ball government to revisit their Budget 2016 decision to cancel the new middle school for the Mobile/Witless Bay school system in light of census data released by Statistics Canada proving that the region is one of the fastest-growing areas of the province, in particular the town of Witless Bay which has seen almost a 40 per cent increase.
“As a result of high residential growth in the Bay Bulls to Bauline region and on expert engineering advice in 2014 from BAE-Newplan Group, the school board recommended and the provincial government of the day announced a new middle school for the Mobile/Witless Bay system in the 2015 Budget. But to the shock of the residents of the region, the Ball government canceled (not deferred) the school project in their 2016 Budget,” said Hutchings.
“Budget 2016 referenced building an extension to Mobile Central High, but there has been no evidence as to how this will accommodate the overcrowding at St Bernard’s K-6 nor how it addresses the concerns and recommendations of the 2014 report,” said Hutchings.
“The educational needs of one of the fastest-growing areas of our province have to be met. What is the Ball government’s plan to meet those needs after they canceled construction of a new school that was to accommodate the current population growth surge which will no doubt continue?
“Good governance requires that you identify infrastructure needs and you plan to meet those needs responsibly, so you don’t end up spending even more of the taxpayers’ money down the road on ad-hoc, crisis-management measures that result from failing to prepare properly in the first place,” said Hutchings.
“The BAE-Newplan report on the options for Mobile/Witless Bay school system is sitting on the Minister’s desk, and clearly tells him what needs to be done. The previous administration and the school board both reviewed the recommendations and concluded that proceeding with the middle school was the most educationally and fiscally responsible course of action to take. The region was in disbelief when the government veered off course by canceling the new school and leaving no identified alternative to meet the identified challenges of our students,” said Hutchings.
The BAE-Newplan Group’s November 2014 report entitled “Long Term Planning Report for Mobile Area Schools“, prepared for the Department of Education, stated: “…based on the cost comparisons for renovations and expansions at each site as compared to the cost of a new facility, the more practical solution may be to construct a completely new facility to service the elementary grades. This would leave St. Bernard’s to serve the primary grades while Mobile High will continue its present function. This will eliminate the need for physical disruption of students and staff at the existing common resource spaces required for the comfort and convenience of both students and staff.”
The report’s Conclusions and Recommendations stated: “Based on our review, we believe the most practical and efficient approach is to construct a new facility to better address the requirements of the intermediate grades, i.e. Grades 5-8 inclusive.”
Hutchings has written the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District on January 5th and copied the Education Minister, urging him to make the Mobile/Witless Bay middle school a priority for the 2017 Budget. To date, no response has been received.
“On behalf of the people of the region, I am requesting that the new Mobile/Witless Bay middle school facility recommended on November 26, 2014 by the BAE-Newplan Group be included by the provincial government among this year’s school infrastructure projects as part of Budget 2017,” said Hutchings. “The educational needs of the youth of this rapidly-growing region of our province must be met through responsible planning, and proceeding with the middle school project is the most responsible, cost-effective approach that will cause the least disruption, hardship and chaos to students and families.”
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Office of the Official Opposition
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