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This article was published 17/11/2015 (613 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After years of lobbying, the Brandon School Division finally heard the words it has been waiting for: the province will move forward on a new south-end school.
The announcement came on Monday as Manitoba’s NDP government delivered its pre-election throne speech, read by Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon.
"We’re really excited that the government of Manitoba has listened to our ongoing concerns about the pressing need for a new school," said BSD board chair Mark Sefton. "It’s one of those things that we’ve been talking about for quite some time … I think it’ll be a relief for a lot of people."
The new kindergarten to Grade 8 school will be built near the corner of Ninth Street and Maryland Avenue to accommodate the growing south end. While no official timeline has been announced, Sefton says an optimistic goal is to have it completed and ready for students in three years.
Currently, Riverheights School is overcapacity, with King George School nearing its limit. The division is considering catchment area changes to address the problem. Sefton said the division has been actively lobbying for a new school for four years, but it has been in the capital plans for close to a decade. A second new school has also been requested for south Brandon.
Mayor Rick Chrest has been supporting the division’s new school request, and is pleased it has made it into the province’s plan.
"I saw this as a greater community consideration that we’re continuing to grow Brandon," Chrest said. "I know that’s going to be met with a lot of enthusiasm, especially from the parents that are in that … south end of the city that are challenged with places to send their kids to school."
The throne speech specifically mentioned the Daly Overpass expansion, as well as Assiniboine Community College’s move to the North Hill campus.
ACC president Mark Frison said he is hopeful that there will be a "full and formal announcement" on the province’s plan by the end of the year.
"The province gave us some resources back in March to study the concept design, and that work is going to be coming to conclusion in the next two weeks," Frison said. "So that should give the province all the information they need to make a final decision on moving the project forward."
Meanwhile, Brandon University’s student housing project, which has been in the planning stages for years, was given special mention. The goal is to build mature student housing on land near Sioux Valley High School just off Victoria Avenue.
BU president Gervan Fearon said the university has experienced a five per cent enrolment increase this year, so having additional student housing is particularly important.
"We’ve been working with the government on the … project over the years, and I think that we’ve made some very strong progress on that initiative," Fearon said. "I believe the statement in the throne speech also points to the level of commitment of the government and the hope of all parties to be able to move forward with that initiative as soon as possible."
The goal is to finalize details with the province over the next few weeks to determine a timeline, Fearon said.
Roads, bridges and flood protection continue to be a priority for the province, with an extension of the infrastructure plan beyond 2020 — a total of more than $10 billion. Investments in community and recreation centres are also in the works.
Municipal Government Minister and Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell called Monday’s throne speech "the most significant … in Brandon’s history," in terms of investment in education.
"We’re going to move forward with our partners at Brandon University, Assiniboine Community College and in the Brandon School Division, and we’re going to move forward as quickly as possible," he said.
While specific details weren’t available, Caldwell said he expects to see "dollars flowing" for the ACC move in 2016.
"We want to get these projects up and underway," he said. "They’re multi-year projects, they’re going to take in some cases a couple years or more to construct."
While encouraged by some of the announcements for Brandon, the local chamber of commerce president, Jordan Ludwig, said it was lacking in details, and in some cases simply
reannouncements of projects already underway, like the Daly Overpass and flood protection.
"It’s kind of a status quo throne speech. There’s nothing really huge to report," Ludwig said, adding that he felt Brandon deserved more attention.
"They talked about reinventing their capital city. What about reinventing our economic region out here?"
Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer also criticized the throne speech for mentioning Brandon projects that have "been announced and reannounced."
"Except for the school, which Brandon has been clamouring for for years and have been told ‘no’ time and again, by every minister of education," Helwer said.
As for the ACC and BU projects, Helwer said the province has been talking about them for years, with little action.
"The province has been promising (the ACC project) for years and never moved on it," Helwer said.
On a positive note, Helwer said he is encouraged by Frison’s plan for ACC.
"He seems to have a good idea of how things need to move ahead," Helwer said.
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