Nova Scotia

Frustrated parents waiting for new Halifax school demand transparency from province

Frustration is growing among parents who feel left in the dark while they wait for construction of the replacement school for St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay Elementary School to begin. 

Officials now say replacement for St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay Elementary School could be ready by 2024

A mother stands beside two kids getting on a school bus.
Punchalee Clair drops her son off at the school bus Wednesday morning. (Robert Short/CBC)

Frustration is growing among parents who feel left in the dark while they wait for construction of a new school in the north end of Halifax to begin. 

In 2021, the province announced that a replacement school would be built on the existing site of St. Joseph's-Alexander McKay Elementary School on Russell Street by 2023.

But construction has not yet begun, and there have only been few updates from the Halifax Regional Centre for Education in the two years since student relocation to Ecole Beaufort was announced in early 2021. 

"I checked the Public Works website, the tender hasn't been gone out to issue yet, so those delays need to be communicated to us," said Punchalee Clair in early January. Her five-year-old spends an hour on the bus every afternoon to get to the temporary school location on Walnut Street. 

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education provided an updated timeline for the project in an letter emailed to families on Jan. 17 from Kavita Khanna, the director of operations services. 

According to the new timeline, the tender for the project will be issued by the end of this month and a construction contract award will be issued by the end of March.

The target occupancy date is September 2024.

The letter said the scope and design of the project were changed after a fourth floor was added to the project for additional classrooms space and a new child-care centre and play space were also added. 

Construction labour shortages and material and equipment delays also contributed to the reevaluation of timelines, the letter said. Updated information on the progress of the school will be posted online.

In the meantime, parents worry children are spending hours on the bus each day for over two years while they attend the temporary school, about four kilometres away. They feel their children have been outside of their community with no end in sight. 

A little girl wearing a beanie.
Sophie Crossland-Page says she misses going to her old school. (Robert Short/CBC)

Waiting at her bus stop, Grade 3 student Sophie Crossland-Page said she wishes her bus trips to school were shorter.

"I would just like to have a new school because the one that we're going to now is also very old," she said. 

Her mother, Kate Crossland-Page, says the children are being forgotten about because the North End is traditionally seen as a "have not" area. 

Clair said parents understand that projects get delayed, but don't understand why the delays aren't being communicated and why the community isn't being consulted by the province. 

Update last summer

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education initially announced that demolition of the school would take place in late 2021, but it was delayed until the summer of 2022. In a June update, the board said construction on the building would begin in January 2023. 

The new school is part of the Nova Scotia School Capital Plan.

"[Parents are] looking at an open gravel space where nothing, no work has been done," said Suzy Hansen, NDP MLA for Halifax Needham.

Hansen said she's been sharing parents' concerns with the province since last October. 

"I've called a few times already and I haven't had any luck and I'm an MLA," said Hansen, who has three children who attend the school.

She said the community has been waiting for this school for 15 years, and people are excited, but at the same time are frustrated when no updates are shared by the province. 

"We need a school. We need it now. Our kids deserve better, right? So why aren't we doing that?" said Hansen.

Kim Fry was a teacher in Toronto for 20 years and moved to Halifax last year. She says the one thing that stands out about the education system in Nova Scotia is the lack of school boards and school board trustees.

A woman with an orange beanie
Kim Fry says the lack of accountability in the school system stands out. (Robert Short/CBC)

"There's literally nobody who is politically responsible for something like this school rebuild," said Fry.

"In Ontario, I would know exactly who to call and who to exert pressure on. And here it's very opaque. It is just the minister of education really, and they're so far removed and also don't represent this community. There's no one who represents this community who can actually exert that political pressure."


Anam Khan


Anam Khan is a CBC News reporter based in Toronto. She previously worked for CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached at

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