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Government defending J.L. Ilsley school replacement amid criticism

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Nova Scotia's Education Minister is once again defending her government's decision to build a new school in the province. That's because once again, it's in a Liberal riding. Global's Natasha Pace reports – Jan 26, 2017

Education Minister Karen Casey is standing behind the Liberal government’s decision to replace the J.L. Ilsley High School in Spryfield, despite facing criticism of the investment.

READ MORE: J.L. Ilsley High School to be replaced as part of Nova Scotia capital spending plan

The school, which the government has spent more than $3 million renovating, wasn’t one of the schools the Halifax Regional School Board had identified as being high priority for replacement.

The school has also seen enrollment decrease in recent years.

Casey said Thursday that replacing the school is a “value-for-dollar” move, and that they would be “building a building that’s the right size for the community.”

“The decision was made, rather than continue to put money into an old building and have an old building when you’re done, built beyond capacity needs. The decision was made to give the students and the teachers and the parents in that community a new school,” Casey said.

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The school has a long history of issues, including heating problems and roof leaks.

READ MORE: ‘It’s disgusting’: leaky roof at Halifax high school has students voicing concern about safety

Students, parents and staff have questioned safety in the school for years, and Casey said the school board has been asking for renovations since 2012.

“Actually really happy about having them replace the school, it’s been a long time coming,” said parent Sylvia White.

“I’ve been pretty much fighting within the community with a bunch of people for over three years now to get the school replaced.”

School replacement not a political move: Casey

The school is within Liberal Brendan Maguire’s riding, leading some to speculate the decision was a political move.

Casey shot down those claims Thursday, saying that anyone who thinks it was a political move should talk to students and staff at the school.

There is no estimate on when work on the new school may get underway. The next steps in the replacement process will be public consultations and the formation of a site selection committee.

Last year, Nova Scotia’s auditor general, Michael Pickup said he could find no explanation for two other schools that were recently approved in Premier Stephen McNeil’s and Casey’s ridings.

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READ MORE: ‘No evidence’ why schools approved in N.S. premier, education minister ridings jumped queue: auditor general

Pickup said the schools in Bridgetown and Tatamagouche, which were ranked 26th and 28th on the priority list of areas needing new schools, meant other places on the list were skipped.

“There is no evidence to support why these projects were approved ahead of other projects ranked higher by the evaluating committees, but not approved,” his report said.

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