REGINA – The necessary repairs of crumbling schools in Saskatchewan is pegged at $1.5 billion, but the government isn’t providing a breakdown of where that number comes from.
A freedom of information (FOI) request by the Opposition NDP was denied in early February, because the records could “potentially disclose a confidence” of cabinet ministers and senior government officials.
“It’s critical the priorities are laid out as to which schools have structural deficiencies, what plans are in place to make sure students are safe,” said NDP education critic Trent Wotherspoon. “Beyond that, it’s only fair for communities to see where they fit into a ranking process.”
In January, the Prairie Spirit School Division found five rural schools were not structurally sound. Some areas are completely closed off, with others using temporary structural supports. The schools are located in Aberdeen, Delisle, Hague and Hanley.
A 2013 report from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association said 75 per cent of school roofs would fail within five years.
“We want to focus on the things we can and should do in the near future.”
The government used to maintain a full list of necessary school repairs, but now just compiles a so-called “top ten.”
“The things that are a long ways down the list, there isn’t anything beneficial about knowing you’re 57th or 61st on a very long list” said Education Minister Don Morgan. “We want to focus on the things we can and should do in the near future.”
Morgan said he hadn’t seen the information request, but told reporters that repair and inspection reports are used in preparing the budget, so they shouldn’t be revealed.
Parents can inquire with individual school boards to find out where repairs fall on their own priority lists. If using reserve funds, the district could proceed with those repairs without government approval.
Morgan said the government is spending more on preventative maintenance at Saskatchewan schools each year and works with school divisions to decide which projects are most urgent.