Nova Scotia

Pop money going to school developer: report

Arbitrator Bruce Outhouse has sided with Scotia Learning, the company that owns and leases 11 schools back to the provincial government. It means the company is entitled to some of the funds generated from the schools.

Arbitrator Bruce Outhouse has sided with Scotia Learning, the company that owns and leases 11 schools back to the provincial government. It means the company is entitled to some of the funds generated from the schools.

The province was in a lengthy dispute with Scotia Learning over who controls the schools. Both sides have kept the arbitration report secret.

But CBC Television has obtained a copy of Outhouse's 80-page report.

Halifax school board chairperson Mike Flemming got his first look at it when a reporter showed it to him Monday.

"It could have a devastating effect on individual schools," he said. "We've mortgaged ourselves. We've given away control."

The provincial government had a so-called P-3 program where private developers built schools and leased them back to the province.

The province argued that schools were entitled to keep all of the proceeds from cafeteria and pop machine sales. About $50,000 is raised this way at Scotia Learning's nine P-3 schools in the Halifax area.

"That's money that's not provided by the board. It's used to take kids to places such as the Neptune theatre or different field trips to expand the education experience," said Flemming.

However arbitrator Bruce Outhouse disagreed with the province, saying neither the school board nor school principals can contract with other parties to operate cafeterias and vending machines. Outhouse concluded Scotia Learning Centres is entitled to share the profits generated from such concessions. That share is 35 per cent.

           
Report highlights
   
         
  • Scotia Learning Centres is entitled to 35 per cent of the profits generated from cafeterias and vending machines

  • The province assumes the costs associated with vandalism when teachers and students are in the school. The company assumes the costs at other times. The issue of vandalism will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis

  • Scotia Learning is required to provide Ednet access

  • Scotia Learning is not required to provide laptops for teachers for the extra classrooms at Beechville, Eastern Passage and Enfield learning centres
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The arbitrator also ruled that Scotia Learning had the right to charge groups to use the schools after hours. According to Outhouse, if it's not directly school related, Scotia Learning controls who uses the building and how much it'll cost them.

The Girl Guides say they can't afford to rent the company's schools.

"They are wonderful facilities. We really wish we could use them," said Margaret Galbraith, Girl Guides commissioner. "We just don't have the kind of funds."

Neither Scotia Learning nor the Department of Education is commenting.

Meanwhile the school board is trying to figure out what the ruling means for its existing contracts.

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