June 16, 2017
For Immediate Release

Minister Spending Money on the Wrong School Project

Why Is He Ignoring NLESD Board Recommendation for a New Middle School for the Southern Shore?

Keith Hutchings, PC MHA for Ferryland, is joining parents in calling out the Minister of Education for wasting public money on a misguided school extension project that the Newfoundland Labrador English School District never approved; but rather they clearly recommended that only a new middle school can meet the ‎region’s ballooning need.

Hutchings said, “‎The community is outraged by the lack of willingness of the Liberal Government to engage with the region to discuss accurate and relevant student projections that continue to support the recommendation in Budget 2015. The region is planning a public demonstration on Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. near the Mobile School site to highlight how wrong the Education Minister’s approach is.”

“The English School District Board has been unequivocal in their recommendation that a new middle school is desperately needed in the region to cope with a growing population and increasing demand in enrollment and residential growth in area. The NLESD Board Chair wrote March 22, 2017, ‘The Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board has subsequently restated its request for a new school through its long term capital request to the provincial government. As Chair, I wrote the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development on March 20, 2017 again restating our position that a new school should be approved. I have also had two specific conversations with the minister regarding this topic.’”

“This is in direct conflict with what the Minister and this Liberal Government has proposed to deal with a growing issue. The board’s recommendation in 2015 was to build a new Grade 5 to Grade 8 school. That has not changed to date. The only thing that has changed is Education Minister Dale Kirby stepped in to cancel it in favour of a projected extension that does not alleviate capacity concerns, has yet to be engineered and designed for current footprint at Mobile, and does not deal with issues beyond 2020/2021 – and amazingly is not endorsed by the current elected members of the school board,” said Hutchings. “I will add that the board has not voted on or approved a new extension but yet it proceeds, while the same board advocates for new school.”

“Extending the existing school at Mobile is a waste of public dollars that ought to be invested in the new school that the board recommended and for some reason the Minister canceled,” said Hutchings.

“The existing site information brings into question if it can even accommodate the extension project or will be stretched beyond the breaking point barely a couple of years after it is completed,” said Hutchings. “It makes no sense whatsoever.”

“In a recent meeting with the Concerned Parents’ Group, Transportation and Works officials, Project Manager, informed area parents that the engineering and design work has not yet been completed because issues have been identified with upgrading the sewer, water supply and electrical systems. We know concerns have arisen regarding the project’s adjacently to the Mobile cemetery and related health issues.‎ Officials have estimated that, because of arising issues, there may be a one-year delay in the project with a 30 to 50 per cent increase in the cost of the project, which by government’s own numbers will still leave capacity issues as early as 2020-21, just a year or two after the project is completed.‎

“It is an absolutely ridiculous waste of public funds that ought to be channeled toward the new school that the board and independent BAE Newplan consultant report has consistently recommended.

“When asked what if any contingency plan was in place in relation to any delay, we were informed they would use portable classrooms on an already limited footprint, but officials could not even confirm if this was possible. The community has huge concerns related to space and the safety of students during construction and indeed with additional space for portables. This just cannot safely work,” said Hutchings.

“The Minister refuses to listen to the people of the region, even as projected numbers for the coming school year are exceeding numbers projected by the Department. Why not listen to the school council? Why not revisit a misguided plan which to date has not even been shown can fit on site? Why not accept the recommendation of the English School District? Surely the Ball administration have not introduced ‘politics’ into building educational infrastructure in our province? While the Ferryland District is represented by a Progressive Conservative, surely that would not be the reason? If not, what is the reason for cancelling the new school?” said Hutchings.

Hutchings and area residents are urging the Newfoundland and Labrador elected school board trustees to join them and speak out publicly to challenge the Minister on the spending of public money that in the long run does nothing to alleviate the school issues in the region. “I challenge each and every Board Member to speak to the issue and give their opinion.”

Hutchings said, “It’s time for the Premier to break his silence on the issue. He has been asked by the parent group to meet, but he has not responded. He needs to intervene to stop this misguided extension scheme and follow the board’s clear recommendation as well as the consultants recommendation in 2014. Our students deserve nothing less.”

-30-

Media Contact:
Heather MacLean, Director of Operations and Communications
Office of the Official Opposition
(709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca

BACKGROUNDER

Letter from Newfoundland and Labrador English School District
to Concerned Parents of St. Bernard’s Elementary
and Mobile Central High School

OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR
Chair: Goronwy Price C.E.O./Director of Education: Darrin Pike, B. Sc., B.Ed., M.Ed.

March 22, 2017

Dear Ms. Stamp:

I am writing to follow up on our previous correspondence pertaining to your request to present to the Board of Trustees of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.

I would like to provide you with some context as to the process undertaken by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board to achieve new infrastructure, namely a new school, for the Mobile Central High School system.

In 2013-2014 the Board requested of the provincial government modular classrooms for St. Bernard’s Elementary to address immediate needs due to enrolment pressures at the school. Ultimately three modulars were provided for the school. Options for long-term solutions to the enrolment and capacity issues were discussed with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) at that time.

In 2014-2015 at the request of the District, EECD funded a consultant to examine options for a long-term solution. The consultant recommended a new school and the Board subsequently requested this new school in its 2014 annual capital infrastructure submission to the provincial government. The new school was approved in Budget 2015.

Work on the design and site selection began late in 2015. Budget 2016 announced an extension for Mobile Central High School.

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board has subsequently restated its request for a new school through its long-term capital request to the provincial government.

As chair, I wrote the minister of Education and Early Childhood Development on March 20, 2017 again restating our position that a new school be approved. I have also had two specific conversations with the minister regarding this topic.

Your request has been furthered discussed by the Executive Committee of the Board. If you believe you have new information that can be informative to the Board beyond the steps already taken regarding the acquisition of a new school, you may address the Board on March 31, 2017. Please provide Ms. Jackie Crane with information pertaining to the content of your presentation. Further information about specific times and location will be provided at a later date.

As per the practice of the Board, one individual must represent the group as presenter and the presenter must follow the time guidelines established for such presentations (typically 15 minutes).
Should you have any questions, you may also contact Ms. Crane at 758-2381 or jackiecrane@nlesd.ca.

Sincerely,
Goronwy Price
CHAIR