City of Edmonton considers selling surplus site in Kiniski Gardens to private school

The City of Edmonton is considering selling a plot of land deemed a surplus school site for more than 10 years, despite ongoing opposition from public interest groups.

Administration recommends $2.5M sale despite opposition from public interest groups

City staff is recommending that the Kiniski Gardens site in southeast Edmonton be sold to the Headway School Society of Alberta for $2.5 million. (François Gagnon/Radio-Canada)

The City of Edmonton is considering selling a plot of land deemed a surplus school site for more than 10 years, despite ongoing opposition from public interest groups.

The city recommends selling the Kiniski Gardens site at 38th Street and 38th Avenue to the Headway School Society of Alberta for $2.5 million, a report posted Thursday outlines.

The proposed sale is up for discussion and approval at council's next executive committee meeting Monday. 

If council approves the sale, Headway plans to build a private school on the lot — a move that has its share of opponents. 

Support Our Students Alberta is among several groups that think the site should remain in the public realm — like a park, seniors centre or community centre. 

"The municipality selling this is sort of counterproductive to what the municipal government should be doing, which is providing barrier-free access to resources for its citizens," said Wing Li, communications director for the group.

Map of the Kiniski Gardens school site in southeast Edmonton. (City of Edmonton )

In an interview with CBC News Thursday, Li argued that if the sale goes through, it could set a precedent of encouraging private education — "that it's accepted that you can have these private identities within communities that have struggling public schools and diverting resources that are supposed to be for everyone." 

Headway secures bid

The surplus school site was listed for sale in March last year for $2.45 million through a public offering. 

The city received six other offers, which remain confidential.

The current Headway School is in Forest Heights and many of its students live in Mill Woods. 

Ward 12 Coun. Moe Banga said if Headway opened a school at the Kiniski Gardens site, it would mean many of its students wouldn't have to travel as far.

"I'd say it's a good thing for people in the area," Banga said Thursday.

On its website, the Headway School describes itself as a "culture-based academic school that offers Punjabi language as a subject."

In 2017, principal J.S. Sidhu told CBC News that about 370 students spend an hour on the bus each way to attend the school. 

"It does cater to that community of course," Banga said. "I support this move because this is a regular school and people do need choices to send their kids to school." 

The Edmonton Public School Board declared the site surplus in 2009. 

When a site is deemed surplus, it's offered to other school districts. In this case, the Catholic and francophone school boards did not express interest in using the site for another place of education. 

"Once a surplus school site has been declared surplus by the school boards, the city is free to dispose of the land to any party," the report says. 

In 2016, Headway inquired to buy the site from the city.

At the time, a coalition of organizations led by Public Interest Alberta and the Edmonton and District Labour Council objected to the city selling the land to a private school.

City council put the discussion on hold and asked administration to try to resolve the conflict. 

When there was still no resolution in October 2019, council directed administration to continue proceeding with the land sale. 

If the executive committee approves the sale, Headway can continue planning and anticipate starting construction in July 2022.