School closure report provokes anger, frustration

A report on proposed school closures in Edmonton was greeted by frustration and anger at a school board meeting Tuesday night.
Edmonton public school trustees listen to the results of a report on proposed school closures at a meeting Tuesday night. ((CBC))
A report on proposed school closures in Edmonton was greeted by frustration and anger at a school board meeting Tuesday night.

"I attended some of the meetings, I read through the material that was provided, and the report glosses over a deeply flawed process and presents it as a success," said Norwood resident Anna-Marie Sewell. 

Sewell stormed out of the meeting after shouting at school trustees. "It's a ridiculous process. It gets me emotional. I don't like nonsense. Nonsense makes me mad," she said.

Declining enrollments means 11 public schools in Hardisty and downtown are slated for closure.

The downtown schools include Delton, Eastwood, John A. McDougall, McCauley, Norwood, Parkdale and Spruce Avenue.

The Hardisty area schools are Capilano, Fulton Place, Gold Bar and Hardisty.

About 600 people were consulted for the report.In the Hardisty area, keeping Hardisty School was included in the two "distinct options" identified in the report. However, there was no agreement on the fate of the other three schools.

In the inner-city, some people thought four or five schools should stay open, while one or two schools could be closed and used for community purposes. Others wanted all the schools to stay open, according to the report. 

Board staff will make recommendations on which schools should close on Feb. 9.  Trustees will make the final decision in April.

Board opening six new suburban schools next year

"We're focusing on students needs but as part of that discussion, money is certainly a factor," said Lorne Parker, the board's managing director of planning and student transportation. 

The district is currently dealing with an oversupply of spaces. However, the board will be opening six new schools next year for students in the city's outlying areas, Parker said.

Some of the affected schools are in Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald's east Edmonton riding.

"I found that in the last seven years Edmonton public has quietly closed 15 schools and removed over 6,000 student spaces in the central areas of the city all ready and I think that's enough," he said.

"No community should have to have its school closed so another one can be opened on the outer edges of the city."

Trustee Sue Huff suggested that the timelines for the closures could be extended.  The board could make that decision if they chose in early February, Parker said.