BRUCE BUMSTEAD/ BRANDON SUN
Construction crews work to place a new portable classroom on its foundation at Betty Gibson School this week.
Portable classrooms are a "quick fix" for a long-term problem, according to school board chair Mark Sefton.
"We have seven elementary schools in Brandon that have 250 or fewer students in them and we are receiving the equivalent of one of those schools in new students every year," Sefton said. "We don’t have the luxury where we have a school in one neighbourhood that’s essentially empty whereas other schools are overflowing. We’re seeing growth everywhere."
As of Monday, Brandon School Division enrolment has climbed to 8,338 students compared to 8,232 last year and 7,923 in 2011.
Earlier this week, both Meadows and Betty Gibson schools received a new portable classroom and finalizations are also being made to retrofit George Fitton School’s gym to make room for two more classrooms. Plans to extend Waverly and Meadows schools will also give them two more classrooms each.
But just because Meadows could soon see a permanent addition doesn’t mean it will be able to give up its portable classroom.
"Those two classrooms, by the time they’re built, I think they’ll be oversubscribed," Sefton said.
Meadows principal Dave Lim said enrolment has increased to 460 students.
"Every room is being used, and last year we had to use part of the library as a classroom and that’s not ideal," Lim said. "This year will be much better with a portable."
Betty Gibson principal Phil Vickers was also happy to welcome a new portable this week.
"We’re quite excited to have it here," he said. "Over the last five years, we’ve gone from 200 to 300 students."
As part of the school division’s four-point plan, approved in November of last year to deal with enrolment pressures, 90 École New Era School students were reassigned to Earl Oxford School this month.
The other three points of the plan that were approved included requesting more portable classrooms from the Public Schools Finance Board and assigning them to schools with the greatest need.
"As long as we continue to grow, we’re going to need more space," Sefton said. "We’re disappointed we didn’t get more portables because that would have helped us out immediately, but I think a better solution, a longer-term solution is permanent additions."
And the division’s fight for a new elementary school in the south end of the city isn’t over. Sefton said a new school was listed at the top of its capital request form filed last month.
"That’s clearly, clearly No. 1 on the list," he said. "If I had to choose between two portables or one permanent, I’d take one permanent every day."
The board is also continuing discussions with Assiniboine Community College and Manitoba Education over the idea to use the unused shop spaces at ACC’s Victoria Avenue East campus for Brandon School Division industrial arts, home economics and other programs.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 12, 2013