Montgomery Place residents divided over proposed Saskatoon Tribal Council preschool

Some residents welcome the Saskatoon Tribal Council's HeadStart preschool, while other said the proposed location along 11th Street West has too much truck traffic, making it unsuitable for preschoolers.

Chief says STC may not have provided enough info to community

Neighbours told CBC this home on 11th Street West has been for sale for well over a year. The Saskatoon Tribal Council plans to buy it and expand it for its HeadStart preschool, but it's still waiting for zoning approval. (CBC)

Mark Arcand, tribal chief for the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC), said he wants work with the community to address concerns and clarify information about a proposed preschool in Saskatoon's Montgomery neighbourhood.

People in Montgomery Place are expressing mixed reactions to the STC's plan to buy a single detached home along 11th Street West and convert it into a preschool for indigenous children.

The Montgomery Place Community Association told city officials it's opposed to re-zoning the lot. The association told residents the HeadStart preschool would accommodate 40 children, bused in from eight other Saskatoon neighbourhoods.

Arcand said the preschool would actually accommodate 32 children maximum per day — 16 in the morning program and another 16 in the afternoon. 

He also said the preschool isn't new to Saskatoon, they just want to relocate it to the Montgomery area.

Mark Arcand, tribal chief for Saskatoon Tribal Council, said the preschool will not be a disruption to the neighbourhood and wants to further discuss the community's concerns. (CBC News)

"Maybe we dropped the ball as the Saskatoon Tribal Council not providing enough information and I apologize to the Montgomery residents," Arcand said.

"We want to work together, strive together and do what's best for specifically children."

He said the preschool would provide cultural opportunities for children that they may not get at other preschools.

"We're not here to disrupt people, but change is difficult and sometimes people don't adapt to change very well," he said.

"But in this instance, it's changes for the right reason."

Arcand said he's proud of Saskatoon for the progress it's made on reconciliation, saying this is "just another bump in the road. We can get through it if we all work together."

The program is being funded by the federal government, according to Arcand.

Some neighbours say preschoolers and industrial traffic don't mix

One Mé​tis family living on the same block said the idea is good, but that children from the neighbourhood ought to be allowed to attend the preschool.

Others on the same street said they were concerned about lengthy renovations. They said they prefer not to live next door to any preschool, regardless of the group running it. 

It's pretty dangerous, just the amount of traffic that goes by.- Cale Fentiman, Montgomery Place resident

Cale Fentiman said he welcomes the tribal council's preschool, but it should go on a quieter street.

"For me, it's pretty dangerous, just the amount of traffic that goes by," said Fentiman, who lives a few doors down from the proposed preschool.

He said the steady stream of trucks and industrial traffic make the proposed location potentially hazardous for three- and four-year-olds.

"I feel like it's just not a good location for a preschool, on such a busy street," said Cale Fentiman, who lives along 11th Street West. (CBC)

"Kids gotta be educated and schools gotta go some places," said Fentiman. "I raise kids on this street and I don't even feel comfortable when they're out front playing."

Lots along his block stretch 76 metres from the front property line. Fentiman said he prefers to keep his children in the backyard.

"It's always great to have more families, more kids around in the area," said Bryce McCall, who lives a few blocks away. 

He admitted he did not attend a public meeting earlier this month, but said "if the benefits outweigh the concerns, it might be a good thing."

"If it comes that's great, more kids and families in the area are always great," said Montgomery Place resident Bryce McCall. (CBC)

Preschool faces more hurdles 

The Montgomery Place Community Association website says a sketch of planned additions to the 1,200 square foot house "would double the size and change the house significantly."

Members encouraged residents to attend further discussions about the preschool at St. Dominic School, November 7 at 7 p.m. CST.

In an e-mail, Lesley Anderson, the City of Saskatoon's Planning and Development director, said she had received numerous letters from community members.

"The City will be in a better position to comment more fully when the consultation phase is complete," Anderson said.

City officials must still review the preschool's zoning application. From there, the proposal will go before Saskatoon's Municipal Planning Commission, followed by a public hearing during a Saskatoon City Council meeting.

About the Author

Jennifer Quesnel

CBC Saskatoon reporter

Since 2001, Jennifer Quesnel has reported on news and current affairs for both CBC Radio and CBC Television in Regina, Calgary, Quebec City and Saskatoon.