Mark Sefton, Brandon School Division chair. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
A meeting with the Manitoba’s minister of education earlier this week has left Brandon School Division chair Mark Sefton feeling optimistic.
While no concrete announcements were made, Sefton said the two-hour meeting was a chance to share perspectives on some on-going challenges within the division.
"It went really well," Sefton said. "It was sort of a meeting to build bridges, to keep the lines of communication open, to share insights, that kind of thing."
Increasing enrolment numbers in the division have created several challenges. École New Era School is at capacity with 550 students, while Meadows and other schools are also facing pressure.
Enrolment in the division is currently at 8,232. That’s an additional 309 students compared to September 2011. The division projects that increasing trend to only continue.
The division is currently conducting a series of public consultations, in an effort to find solutions, both short-term and long-term.
Much of the increase is associated with English as an Additional Language students, whose parents immigrated to Brandon to work at Maple Leaf Foods.
Last year, there were more than 1,200 EAL students in the division. In 2006, that number was just 103.
Another challenge will be meeting a provincial mandate to cap kindergarten to Grade 3 classes at 20 student in the next four years.
"We’re always hopeful for more funding, but we also recognize that the province is in a tough spot and the minister’s in a tough spot," Sefton said. "Our job is to continuously attempt to lobby for the interests of the students in Brandon School Division, and we do that. But we also have to be mindful of the financial situation in the province and in the country."
The division would like to see a new school up and running in Brandon by the fall of 2015 and has put that request to the Public Schools Finance Board.
Education Minister Nancy Allan, along with Deputy Minister Gerald Farthing met with trustees and senior administration on Tuesday.
"What both sides are looking to do is to have more of those kinds of meetings, so that we can have some of those conversations face to face and develop a bit of understanding of where each is coming from," Sefton said. "I really have to give the minister … a thank you because she has made a great effort to meet with us more frequently."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 21, 2012