New P3 schools to open with 38 portable classrooms
REGINA – When a set of nine new joint-use schools open in September 2017, they’ll already show a telltale sign of classrooms bursting at the seams.
Government planning documents show the schools in Regina and Saskatoon will be equipped with 38 portable classrooms in the first year they welcome students.
In the years that follow, additional relocatable classrooms will be added, including four in Warman and two in Martensville.
“You wouldn’t want them there indefinitely.” – Education Minister Don Morgan
During Wednesday’s question period, Opposition NDP leader Cam Broten criticized the high number of portable units on the outset.
“Is it a school or a trailer park? That’s a lot of portables attached on,” Broten said. “I think it’s a real lack of planning.”
By 2021, there will be 68 portables among the nine school buildings. Saskatoon’s Stonebridge will top the list with 18 portables, followed by Regina’s Harbour Landing with 12.
Hundreds of relocatables are in use each year at Saskatchewan schools to accommodate growing enrolment numbers; in many cases, classrooms are exceeding 100 per cent capacity. They’re often moved to different schools over the summer to accommodate changes in enrolment.
Education Minister Don Morgan says new schools open at “peak enrolment” and are expected to have fewer students as the years go on.
“When the neighbourhood fully builds out, as those children move on to high school and university, the enrolment strength (goes down),” Morgan said.
The planning documents say “relocatable classrooms are utilized to manage fluctuating enrolments.”
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Broten argues the neighbourhoods these new schools are located in will have high enrolment numbers for decades to come.
“For most parents, most teachers, the idea of one or two portables might seem reasonable,” he said. “But if you go to these communities and see the makeup of them, there’s going to be a big demand there for a long time.”
The NDP repeatedly raised a 2013 quote from Premier Brad Wall in a Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation publication, saying “portable classrooms are not the long-term solution and don’t provide the kind of learning environment we need for our students.”
Morgan clarified, saying “you wouldn’t want (portables) there indefinitely.”
“Schools have a life cycle of 50, and in some cases, 100 years. But you might have a portable there for five-to-ten years.”
Morgan says the portables, at roughly $400,000 per unit, are paid for as part of the P3 process.
Given that many families choose which neighbourhood they want to live in based on the schools in the area, Morgan was asked if he believes parents would be disappointed to find out their child will be in a portable classroom in a new school.
“I don’t think they will,” he said. “I’d urge the parents to go inside and see how large they are, how comfortable, how well-lit they are, and they’ll be satisfied.”Follow @mikemckinnon
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