Alberta’s school-building process needs fixing

Apr 1, 2019 by

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One of the most fundamental determinants of a healthy and balanced life for children in our cities is access to public education. Every child deserves the ability to go to school in her home community, and no child should have to compromise his health in the name of education. Unfortunately, we have created a system where the responsibilities of city-building and provision of public education have been separated to a degree that our communities no longer allow equitable access to public education.

Let me explain. When the City of Calgary approves new communities or redevelopment in existing areas, we must defer to the public or separate school boards to determine what is needed in terms of a school. Although it’s a safe bet that professional planners and community designers are equally able to determine what type of educational institutions will be needed in neighbourhoods based on sociodemographics and census data, municipal stakeholders have no say in this important matter.

Instead, land developers must dedicate parcels for schools as requested by the school boards. When municipalities and professional planners are unable to influence site design in a way that works best within the broader community, the result is a pick-up and drop-off mess when the school is finally built in a community that has existed without one for years. The disregard for pedestrian and traffic safety in the current process of building schools is a direct by-product of excluding municipalities in early school site design stages.

Compounding this is the historic unwillingness of the provincial government (regardless of party) to examine how schools can be built at the same time as homes, employment centres and other amenities. As a result, designated school sites sit dormant in actively growing communities, sometimes for decades until the provincial government finds the capital for construction and the school board makes a case for the school to be built.

Source: Opinion: Alberta’s school-building process needs fixing | Calgary Herald

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