Talk has been abuzz over the past few weeks with mention of a proposed new Brandon school and a timeline to have the shovel hit the dirt and ease the burden.
With the growing EAL need in many of the schools and a population bump in most every area, the school division has rightly come to the conclusion that a solution would be necessary. Point taken, and by all accounts a point I agree upon with those in senior management and at the trustee table over on Sixth Street. They have recognized a need in the division and are attempting to put this plan in motion.
The need to facilitate a growing population has been on the radar for a while now. The long concluded decision-making process could be blamed on slow reactions within provincial departments, a 2010 election that saw more than one trustee including the chairman ousted from the table or the Fleming School questions, all of which are possible and reasonably valid reasons for the delay.
I may be thinking out loud but I see and have heard another option that, if the possibility exists, does not require the costs of new construction and creates a unique opportunity.
The NDP government has touted the move to a North Hill campus for Assiniboine Community College for some time now, but progress since the initial opening, from a public lens seems to have slowed. In the old Victoria Avenue East campus the province has a large well-equipped entity, potential partnership opportunities and a unique repurposing with the possibility to serve the City of Brandon for years to come.
The comprehensive school potential of this facility and the sheer footprint of the complex could lend itself to being an excellent example of a fully integrated technological school, a national example of where learning at all levels could be modelled for the 21st century.
The infrastructure exists in the ACC building on Victoria Avenue East. It is an excellent facility for hands on learning and a truly unique opportunity for students to learn by doing; an example of which could be utilized as well through integration at a high school level.
In comparison the work completed on the North Hill campus so far is a excellent first chapter showing that the facility is a world class entity; take into account Brandon University and the work being done there and Brandon becomes a true "college town" when compared with other cities this size.
Through unique learning integration and joint agreement for space we would be better prepare the youth of today for college, university or trades. It has an effect on the community as well. Students may be more apt to stay in our community for post-secondary education when they have transitioned from a modified learning model like a comprehensive school at the former ACC complex could provide.
The logistics of a move and the potential changes would no doubt cause a bit of stir, but it would not be outside the realm of possibilities if the stars aligned.
Currently, we have children at the middle and senior high level being bussed or transported by family from school to school for various programs including band, shops, choir, home economics, sports and the like, something that may be remedied with a decision like this.
I may be off base but it begs the question whether the possibility to think differently could be put in place in this situation.
Could Brandon become the benchmark for a new style of classroom in a state of the art facility?
As the Brandon School Division nears their imposed deadline of December, trustees should at least consider going back to the provincial table with a new game plan that could serve a dual purpose for both the students of Brandon School Division as well as the members of ACC.
Unfortunately until then, we wait in limbo for the North Hill campus renovations and a BSD decision while students continue to fill mobile classrooms.
I hope the call comes sooner rather than later from the politicians and decision makers on Broadway Avenue in Winnipeg to allow the focus to shift and to make a plan that works for the residents of Brandon.
» Shuan Cameron is a lifelong Brandon resident. He has dabbled in politics and is now chair of Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. His column appears regularly.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 13, 2012