Concerns about access to adequate school sites have the St. Albert public school board trying to arrange a formal meeting with St. Albert city council to discuss the issue.
Mayor Nolan Crouse told council at the April 10 standing committee of the whole meeting that the board had requested a formal meeting, with members of both elected bodies sitting down at the same table as elected officials, rather than having one group appear as a delegation at the other’s meeting.
“They want an official meeting,” he said. “So they’re not asking to make a presentation, they’re asking for a joint meeting to make this happen.”
St. Albert Public Schools board chair Glenys Edwards said the concern the board hopes to address with council is the need for a new, large school site for a high school the board hopes to see built within the next five to 10 years. She said attendance numbers are increased, with an enrolment bubble expected at the high-school level.
“There is no site in St. Albert currently that’s proposed at this point that could accommodate a large high school,” she said. “What we’re hoping to do is look forward, and just make sure the city is aware of our capital plan and our capital plan ask is to consider the possibility of a new high school.”
As for why the board was seeking a formal meeting, rather than simply making a presentation to council or asking council to attend a school board meeting, Edwards said she would not comment on that.
Crouse said his understanding is the board wanted to generally discuss school site allocation, and specifically the proposed changes to the Municipal Development Plan (MDP), which were presented to council April 3, which refer to encouraging boards to build more multi-storey schools.
“It was really the broad context of believing council and trustees need to work more closely together on school site size and the jurisdictional responsibility,” he said.
Chief legislative officer Chris Belke said while it’s not impossible to have the kind of formal meeting the board is requesting, there are several issues that complicate the matter.
First, with no formal mechanism for such a meeting in place, it would be important to establish beforehand what the structure of the meeting would be, what decisions might be made and how.
“We’ve got to be really clear about how things will work,” he said.
Second, the public hearing on the proposed changes to the MDP is still open, having been adjourned until July. Council is not supposed to hear arguments with respect to a bylaw outside the confines of the public hearing while that public hearing is still open.
Coun. Bob Russell gave notice of motion that he would seek to invite the public school board to make a presentation to the standing committee of the whole about its concerns once the public hearing is closed in July.