Watch above: Edmonton public schools has named the three schools it is recommending be closed to make way for a new replacement school. Kendra Slugoski reports.
EDMONTON – Edmonton Public Schools announced Tuesday that the Greater Lawton community’s schools have been recommended as the three to close to make way for a new, state-of-the-art replacement school.
After consulting with the communities, the EPSB administration recommended closing Lawton, R.J. Scott, and Rundle schools.
“I would say that overwhelmingly… from the consultative process, that the community supports a new school,” said Edmonton Public School’s Managing Director Lorne Parker. “They don’t want a modernization; they want a new school in that community.”
“I believe most parents are supportive,” said Crystal Savard, whose child attends R.J. Scott School.
“I’m supportive, yeah. I think it’s a boom for our community.”
“We do need to do something. I see a lot of maintenance being done on this building, and I also see that the programs just aren’t there for the kids. And I think we should be spending more money on programs and less money on maintenance.”
“I can’t wait for the new school to be built,” added R.J. Scott parent Adeana Tonnes. “As you can see, we’re in desperate need of a new school. ”
Greater Highlands (Highlands, Montrose, and Mount Royal schools), and Greater Westmount (Westmount, Coronation, and Inglewood schools) were also being considered.
“It’s always emotional no matter whether the community supports the initiative or not,” said Parker. “At the end of the day, there will be some perception of loss or feeling of loss when you have to leave a school you’ve grown attached to.”
“It’s kind of sad to see the schools closing, but it’s nice that they’re going to be opening one big school,” said R.J. Scott parent Jennifer Kelly.
The three areas have aging schools and some have boilers on the brink of failure. In April, the board said it was no longer practical – and too costly – to keep them open.
The province committed $20 million to help build the new K-9 school to replace one junior high and two elementary schools.
“Detailed assessments and physical inspections were conducted on the nine buildings being considered which included enrolment, area population, proximity of area schools, age of schools, condition of the buildings, site of the building, maintenance and renovation requirements,” said Parker. “The district hosted two rounds of public meetings in the identified areas. In addition… interested stakeholders were asked to provide input into online surveys.”
BELOW: Map of the schools that were being considered for closure
Parker said the most opposition came from the Greater Westmount community.
“We had significant pushback from the community in those neighbourhoods, because they wanted us to consider other options.”
He said residents of Greater Highlands expressed interest in modernization, so the district could consider that option in the future.
“We didn’t get a lot of support for a replacement school,” he added. “We did receive a lot of support from the community to explore the modernization of Highlands. But we did hear from that community that they needed more time.”
Parker said parents of Greater Lawton students were more supportive of a replacement school, and that most of their concerns were related to busing and traffic.
“But we also heard a very strong voice from the community supporting the construction of a replacement school.”
The recommendation includes a proposal that the new replacement school be built on the current Rundle school site.
“If we build on the site that’s proposed, it gives us a natural link into a community campus where we could use the old Rundle School for programs and community supports.”
“The services that could be included for – not just my child, but for the whole community – they can group them all in and plan for it, that would be great,” said Savard.
Richelle Schmutz, a R.J. Scott parent, also welcomes the decision.
“I think with them taking all of these schools and putting them together will really benefit the community and offer all of these programs in one big centre because one thing that they do lack is technology here. I think that it’s really going to bring that as a focus, I hope it will be.”
Lawton School was built in 1956. Its current enrolment is 158, but it has a capacity for 601.
R.J. Scott School was built in 1958. It has a current enrolment of 113, with a capacity for 218.
Rundle School was built in 1966, has 156 students currently enrolled, with capacity for 466.
Edmonton public hopes to leave the schools open until construction on the new school is done. The province expects to have the new K-9 school completed by September 2016.
Parker said that consolidation, or at least some modernization strategies, will likely have to be considered for other schools in the district in the future.
“I would say yes, that we will have to continue to consider these types of options. We have a very old infrastructure in the core parts of the city.
Letters were sent home to parents on Tuesday advising them of the recommendations.
The school board will review Tuesday’s recommendation and vote on it June 24.
© Shaw Media, 2014