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School site selection process to be reviewed

Council won't revisit allocation of school site in Erin Ridge

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am

PROCESS REVIEW – The city will review its process for assigning schools to vacant school sites. The issue stems from a controversial francophone school in Erin Ridge.
PROCESS REVIEW – The city will review its process for assigning schools to vacant school sites. The issue stems from a controversial francophone school in Erin Ridge.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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The issue of the Eldorado Park school site reared its head at council again on Monday night.

The controversial issue over the placement of a francophone regional high school at the park in Erin Ridge returned to council’s meeting agenda via two motions. The first motion, from Coun. Sheena Hughes, asked for council to request the school site allocation committee to determine a backup site for the school. The motion was defeated.

The second motion, which came from Coun. Tim Osborne, asked for city administration to review the process for the recommendation of school sites, provide recommendations for any needed revisions and include a review of the pros and cons of the current system.

That system delegates the task of assigning school sites to a committee consisting of the city manager and the superintendents of the three local school jurisdictions. That motion passed.

Hughes’ motion was before council first. She and Coun. Cam MacKay voted in favour of it while the rest of council voted against. The vote came after Hughes laid out an argument about there being potential alternatives and asserted the currently expected school footprint of about three acres won’t be large enough.

“Council’s been asked to claim there’s no other options,” Hughes said. “It’s not the case. We’ve only been presented two options and then blithely ignoring the rest of them.”

The options she suggested intersected with ideas from Erin Ridge resident Bill Van Hoof, who presented earlier in the evening. Some of those ideas included a francophone campus that would join the high school with the francophone school in Heritage Lakes, the undeveloped Badger Lands in the city’s north, swapping with the Catholic board to access a site in Oakmont and more.

She noted council had not yet declared the school site.

“The previous council has missed a crucial step,” she said. “It is our responsibility to ask for a better list of options.”

“As a council we can choose to wash our hands of responsibility or we can choose to take control of the situation,” Hughes said.

Coun. Wes Brodhead expressed concern that waiting for such a list could delay the school.

Osborne asked city manager Patrick Draper if the information that would come back from the school site allocation committee, of which Draper is a member, is that there are no backup sites.

“Yes the committee would come back and say there’s no backups,” Draper said.

In response to a question from MacKay, Draper said all the information he’s been privy to indicates the plan is to fit the site within the 2.9-acre footprint.

Public hearing

Council also looked forward to the planned public hearing which will start Jan. 27 to address an application from Alberta Infrastructure to rezone the entire park so the school can be placed anywhere in that space to address traffic issues.

Draper said if the redistricting application fails it just means the school will go on the original location on the northeast corner of the park.

Osborne’s motion to have the school site allocation process reviewed and a report brought back to council by May 30 passed by a 6-1 vote.

MacKay voted against the motion. He had suggested a friendly amendment to Osborne to move the date earlier. Osborne didn’t take the amendment.

“I believe it is clear that the site allocation is not a process that can be depoliticized,” Osborne said of why he wanted the process reviewed.

“The francophone school has been a hard process for council and I think the allocation committee has taken a hard hit,” said Coun. Cathy Heron.

She suggested a school board trustee or a member of council should sit on such a committee, and wants the wording in future area structure plans reviewed.


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