Crews pushing to add mobile rooms to West Royalty school before classes start
'To scramble here in the last couple days is not suitable for the students'
Renovations to address capacity issues at West Royalty Elementary School are still underway and that has some people questioning whether they will be finished by the time students return to the classroom next week.
The school — built for 450 students — already has 502 registered for the fall. A plan to build an expansion was put on hold last fall. Instead, two mobile classrooms and a connecting hallway are being put in.
"Inside West Royalty, there's definitely valid concerns," said Education Minister Brad Trivers. "They're using locker rooms, they're using ... closets and these sorts of things for space that they need and this should help alleviate that."
According to Trivers, the classrooms should be ready this week and the hallway finished around the third week of September.
"That's taking a little longer than expected," he said, meaning students will have to go outside to reach the classroom until the work is done.
"Especially during this time of COVID, I think it's important we do have that extra space," he said.
But Gordon McNeilly, the MLA for Charlottetown-West Royalty, said he isn't as confident.
"I think we'll see if it's going to be ready," he said.
"Even if it was, this should have been ready two or three weeks ago. They've had 10 months to do this," he said. "To scramble here in the last couple days is not suitable for the students."
The previous Liberal government had promised a new wing for West Royalty — 10 new classrooms and up to 200 more students.
It was going to cost about $4.7 million.
I'm not going to stop with this. I'm not going to stop for the people in West Royalty. — Gordon McNeilly, Liberal MLA
But in November 2019, the new PC government announced that the expansion wouldn't go ahead because the money was more urgently needed to renovate aging schools.
"It was a tough decision," said Trivers. "I'm not going to beat around the bush."
For now, both Trivers and McNeilly agree this is a temporary solution to a bigger problem.
Trivers said if new families do move into the surrounding areas as predicted, the number will help build the case for expansion and they are "ready to do it when that time comes."
As for McNeilly, he's not giving up and said he will "without a doubt" continue to push until he actually sees that expansion take place.
"I'm not going to stop with this. I'm not going to stop for the people in West Royalty."
Montague Consolidated is also getting a mobile classroom. Education officials hope it will be ready for students by the end of the month.
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With files from Wayne Thibodeau