South East Edmonton School Closures
As I entered into the school closure process I learned that small schools in small plants such as St. Vincent and St. Timothy which have between 175 and 200 students, are able to manage fine financially. Small schools in large plants however, really struggle. The schools our Board was looking at closing had upwards of 188 students in schools designed for 650. So my hope in this school closure process was to see if we could partner with private developers who could take over the unused space. I did speak to 2 developers and they both said that it was quite feasible to put a seniors’ assisted living complex in the space unused by students. By “condo-izing” and selling the unused space to a developer, the district would be free of all its maintenance, utility, and janitorial responsibilities associated with the unused wing. In this way, small schools could remain open within our communities and the community would gain a much needed amenity. Seniors would be able to age in the community they built up and free up their homes for young families. There would also be the opportunity for cross generational exchange between the students and the seniors which I believe opens up all sorts of wonderful opportunities for students and seniors alike!
So on May 20th our Board voted to save St. Gabriel school which is in conversation with a developer to do just this kind of partnership. It has never been done before and so we are literally breaking new ground. If this model can be successful, I believe that it could be advantageous to our whole district including Ward 71 when schools begin to struggle with enrolment. I must say though that at this time, all of our Catholic schools in Ward 71 are doing very well in regards to enrolment. At last count we were at over 85% capacity in all the schools in the North West corner of the city.
So our Board voted to keep St. Gabriel open and amalgamate the 3 remaining schools into a new 750 student school on the St. Brendan site. It was partially what I had hoped for but not all. What I am learning though is that there is always some give and take when working on a Board. I believe we did a good job as a Board to try to represent as many diverse views, needs and communities in the way we voted on this issue.