Many of you are tuning in attentively to today’s announcement on space accommodation. I’ve been out to various schools in southwest Edmonton these past few months, getting to know you and your communities better. And I’ve certainly taken to heart what you’ve been telling me – I know parents are concerned about what today’s announcement will mean for their children.
In all the discussion around geographical boundaries, head counts, modular classrooms and budgets, these are the personal stories that are sometimes lost in the dialogue. Let me assure you that your frustrations, fears and concerns have not been lost on me. In my short time as Ward H trustee, your anecdotes have touched me personally. Each and every anecdote paints a unique picture of a student, a family and a community.
I remember one particular story that reflects the uncertainty that many of you feel. A father expressed his concern that his daughter might no longer be allowed to attend the local school – the very school where she had established roots over the past four years. It had become a second home to her, and she was particularly fond of all the teachers that had shaped her education thus far. The parents of this young girl had also invested themselves heavily in their local school, attending Christmas concerts and volunteering with fellow parents.
Parents, students and families have continued to impress upon me the depth of the connection and the bonds that are formed through the school. I have always viewed the school as a community hub where you connect with your neighbours. The biggest part of my job is to understand the needs of our communities, and to reflect that voice so that our children continue to receive a quality education. I remain committed to continuing to be your voice, and to advocating for our students and their right to a quality education.
Today’s announcement lays out the first phase of the growth accommodation plan that deals with the significant challenges around school overcrowding. The facts on the unprecedented growth our city and school district are facing are clear. Over the last ten years, the number of students living outside of Anthony Henday Drive has ballooned to 30, 000 in 46 new neighbourhoods. On the other hand, currently built and approved schools are able to accommodate a mere one-third of these students. Today’s decisions by administration lay out a thoughtful first step for addressing these challenges.
Both the administration and the board has focused on reducing and mitigating impacts to students resulting from difficult decisions. While I know that some of you will be less than satisfied with today’s decision, it was the best decision under less than ideal circumstances – a decision that was made to ensure that growth in Edmonton is addressed in a sustainable way over the coming years.
I hope today’s announcement will offer clarity around what the district is doing to address the monumental growth pressures facing Edmonton Public Schools. Students attending the schools involved in today’s announcement will have an information package sent home with them. The package will outline all decisions and important information related to their school. Information about all decisions will also be posted at spaceforstudents.epsb.ca.
This coming Sunday I will be hosting a coffee date at Second Cup within the Terwillegar Recreation Centre from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. I encourage all of you who are looking to discuss education or any other community issues to come out and visit me.