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Changes considered for school site allocation agreement

City council will discuss report recommendations with partners at upcoming joint use meeting

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 06:00 am

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St. Albert city council will soon be discussing several potential changes to the school site allocation agreement with the three St. Albert-area school boards.

On Monday night, council received a report on the school site allocation process from their staff, which included changes to address a variety of issues.

Those suggested changes included making available an annual report of existing and potential school sites to the public, creating an advisory board for elected officials to allow them to give input to the committee, establish a minimum school and park site size in future area structure plans, base the number of school sites required per area structure plan on projected population, clarify some issues around the subdivision and transfer of the school sites and to ask developers to provide the school site in earlier stages of a neighbourhood’s development.

The review was the product of a motion earlier this year by Coun. Tim Osborne, who was prompted to suggest it after the dust-up over the Erin Ridge concerns about the allocation of the Eldorado Park school site as a regional francophone high school.

The review looked at more issues than just the ones raised by the Erin Ridge controversy – for instance, the recommendation that school sites be required to be provided by the developer earlier in the process would help avoid situations like the one with the Kingswood school site, which the developer has so far refused to release to the city.

Coun. Sheena Hughes attempted to make two amendments which were shot down by the majority of council.

Hughes’ attempted to delete the clause which would recommend the creation of an advisory committee that includes two council members and the chair of each school board to give input to the allocation committee, which is made up of unelected administrative staff.

“Either council’s going to have a say or not,” Hughes said, suggesting that either all of council or none of them should have a say, not just two members.

The amendment was defeated in a 4-3 vote, with Hughes and Couns. Tim Osborne and Wes Brodhead in the minority.

Hughes’ second amendment was defeated in a 5-2 vote, with Hughes and MacKay the only ones voting for the suggestion that would add a clause to the school site allocation agreement that would give council final decision making authority to declare the location of new schools to city council.

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine pointed out council has the authority for placement of schools during the area structure plan approval stage.

“I do believe we have always had the final ‘is there a school or is there not a school’ (authority),” Prefontaine said.

Before the final motion was passed, Osborne, who prompted the report with his motion in January, said he agrees the issues identified in the report do address the bulk of concerns.

“I believe that it’s really important we work collaboratively with our partners,” Osborne said.

Still, Osborne noted there will always be challenges when choosing school sites and, despite attempts to depoliticize the process, “the reality is these decisions will always be political.”

Heron’s motion to receive the report as information, forward it to the school boards and discuss it at the joint use meeting with the francophone, public and Catholic school boards in June was passed in a 6-1 vote, with Hughes the lone dissenting vote.

A second motion from Heron to delay any further council consideration of the matter be postponed until after the joint use meeting was passed unanimously.


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