Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is changing the way it picks new school sites

New process streamlines the way school sites are selected in Nova Scotia and includes technical reviews to determine access to power, water, sewage, transportation and proximity to the communities the schools will serve.

NDP House Leader says process still lacks transparency and community input

Bridgetown Regional Community School, which opened in 2017, is one of Nova Scotia's newer schools. The province announced a new process Tuesday to streamline the way new school sites are chosen. (Department of Education)

Nova Scotia has changed the way it decides where new schools will be built.

Education Minister Zach Churchill said Tuesday that the old process took up to six years to complete, too long when a new school is necessary in a community.

The new selection process will cut down on the time it takes to pick a site, he said in a news release.

It includes:

  • Looking at the existing location before seeking a new site in the case of a replacement school.
  • Conducting a technical site review to determine "access to power, water, sewage, transportation, proximity to the community it will serve and other criteria."
  • Consulting the school community when there are two or more viable sites.
  • When there is only one suitable site option, government may choose to build on that location and provide information to the public.

Last year, the province announced it would be building nine schools

NDP House leader Claudia Chender said the new guidelines for picking school sites don't include enough community input. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

NDP House leader Claudia Chender said the new guidelines are short on "really robust community consultation," something, she said, was lost with the elimination of regional school boards.

"I think what we have now continues the pattern of a lack of transparency and a lack of community voice in decisions that affect them most directly," she said.

"If there's two different sites then maybe they would trigger community consultation. But also how do you know ... if there's more than one site available when we don't even really know what the criteria for that one site is? It all seems fairly opaque."

Changes to the long-term school capital plan process for Nova Scotia are also in the works.

They include setting up a committee to review and prioritize proposed school capital projects, with representation from the regional centres for education, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial and staff from the Department of Education and Department of Infrastructure Renewal.

That committee will provide a complete list of projects ranked from high to low priority. Final decisions will be based on budget and regional fairness.

In May, the province announced a new funding model for the public school system.

Instead of basing it on enrolment only, it will consider a region's socioeconomic conditions, the number of students on individual program plans and student achievement data, as well as other factors.

With files from Jean Laroche