Minister unhappy with $7,000 school video

Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is unhappy with Holy Family Catholic School Division for spending $7,000 on a video highlighting problems at its school in Grimshaw.
Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk recently visited Holy Family School in Grimshaw. (CBC)

Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is unhappy with Holy Family Catholic School Division for spending $7,000 on a video highlighting extensive structural and maintainance problems with its school in Grimshaw.

The seven-minute video shows rusty pipes, exposed wires, and children who are so cold they need to wear their winter coats in the library of 50-year-old Holy Family School.

"Seven-thousand dollars is the amount of money that you spend for one child for a full year of education," Lukaszuk said on Monday. "They took one student's funding and appropriated it towards a video."

Lukaszuk said he didn't need to see a video to understand the problem at Holy Family School. But school board officials say they were driven to take the step after their annual funding requests to the province were turned down over the last decade. 

School Trustee Kelly Whalen. (Skype)

"If this school were in a metro area, we wouldn't be having this discussion," said Kelly Whalen, a trustee with the Holy Family Catholic School Division.

The cost of a new building is estimated at $13 million. An engineering report found it would cost about $8.8 million just to fix the plumbing, heating and venting systems.

Lukaszuk visited the school this week. While he agrees the building needs to be replaced, he says other schools are higher on the priority list.

"As dysfunctional of a building as it has become, there are still jurisdictions in Alberta that simply don't have schools to begin with," he said.

The lack of a firm committment from Lukaszuk is frustrating to parents in Grimshaw.

"The fact that children have to wear ski jackets to go to the library and when its -40 C, the extreme cold, where children are having a hard time wiriting with a pencil because their hands are too cold, it's just not acceptable," Whalen said.