New Brunswick’s Education Minister Brian Kenny confirmed in a committee meeting on Thursday there is no money in the provincial budget to build a school in the Rural Community of Hanwell.
Fredericton-West Hanwell Conservative MLA Brian MacDonald raised the question to the minister during education estimates at the legislature.
“No, there is no funding for the Hanwell school,” Kenny said. “It’s up to the District Education Council (DEC) to go back and take a look at the project at hand, and we’ll take a look at it in next year’s fiscal budget.”
MacDonald questioned how that was possible since the Gallant government has promised more than $400 million for schools.
“Hanwell needs a school. It’s been approved by the District Education Council, it’s been recommended by the Ernst and Young report. Everybody knows Hanwell needs a school. This government needs to fund it,” MacDonald said.
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According to the DEC, they used various sources of information for developing and prioritizing its infrastructure list, including the independent Ernst & Young report on the multi-year infrastructure planning for south Fredericton elementary schools, the infrastructure and effective use of school reports, along with presentations from parent-school support committees and school communities.
MacDonald said the DEC already prioritized a school in Hanwell and said that request went to the province. He said the council is made up of an elected body that represents people from Woodstock to Oromocto.
In response, Kenny said there are multiple plans from different councils across the province and said there is a process to go through all the recommendations.
“I understand that there are many other areas throughout the province and I wish I could be Santa Claus here today and you have all of the recommendations from the DECs to be presented, but there’s a balancing act that has to be put in place here today,” Kenny responded.
Kenny said he’s proud of the “record investments” the government has made since they were elected. He said all of the priorities brought forward by districts across the province are important and said the government will “continue to consider those projects that are put forward by every DEC across the province.”
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Mayor of Hanwell Chris Melvin told Global News he is disappointed with the government’s decision not to fund a school.
“It’s disappointing. Obviously, the original need for a school for Hanwell was developed by the process, put in place by the provincial government. It went through the process of the District Education Council, an independent study was commissioned — it clearly showed the need for a school in Hanwell,” Melvin said.
Hanwell resident and member of the citizen’s group “School for Hanwell” Nicolle Carlin said she’s also disappointed with the decision, following the premier’s funding announcement on Wednesday regarding a new school for Moncton’s west-end.
“It’s very disappointing, but I guess the promising thing that came out of it is that they announced funds for a school in a different city, and I was interested to hear that they want to support community-based educational facilities because that’s exactly what we need in Hanwell,” Carlin said.
She said Hanwell has an infrastructure deficit and said a school would also mean a playground and a building for community gatherings.
“I just keep waiting for the moment because I know eventually, common sense is going to meet dollars and cents, and somebody’s going to sit and they’re going to say, ‘Wait a second, we’re busing a whole communities’ worth of children into another community where schools are overburdened,'” Carlin said.
Carlin said she’s also interested in why the province isn’t following priority rankings set out by the DEC. She says she wants to know if the newly announced Moncton school was one of DEC’s highest ranked priorities.
Global News has reached out to the Department of Education for a response.