Brandon School Division is “ahead of the game” as Manitoba enters its second of five implementation years for the kindergarten to Grade 3 class size initiative, according to school board chair Mark Sefton.
In a letter addressed to school boards across Manitoba last month, Education Minister James Allum is calling on school divisions to “undertake a review and assessment of available space and explore all options prior to requesting new construction.
“The review and assessment should consider circumstances that must be addressed now because no alternative space is available,” the letter reads.
Allum adds that some divisions have already initiated a process for assessing surplus space on a division-wide scale to maximize the use of available space prior to requesting new capital funding.
Sefton said the school division arranged for an assessment of its space last spring.
“They went around school by school, examined all the buildings and at the end of that, it was obvious we have no space.”
Sefton said during Allum’s visit to the Wheat City in November, he acknowledged Brandon’s need for more space.
As their enrolment continues to climb, now reaching more than 8,000 students across the division, Sefton said a number of school of choice requests have been turned down.
While school of choice still remains an option for families, the short- and long-term implications of admitting non-catchment area students will need to be carefully considered. The K-3 class size initiative will also have an impact on future school of choice requests, Sefton said.
“Which is never a good thing, you want to try and accommodate families and parents as much as you can.”
As part of the provincial government’s K-3 class size initiative, school divisions in Manitoba will be required to cap their kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms at 20 students. To give some divisions flexibility, the province will allow 10 per cent of the classrooms per division to exceed the cap, without exceeding 23 students.
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 BSD industrial arts, home economics and other programs.