Ever since the Brandon School Division began discussing overcrowding in city schools and the urgent need for a new facility, we’ve been hearing from some folk in this community who think that the former Fleming School site is an obvious solution.
As the Sun has previously reported, increasing enrolment numbers, combined with a provincial mandate to cap kindergarten to Grade 3 classes at 20 (20K3) in the next four years, is pushing schools to the limit.
But to anyone who still thinks the division should use Fleming to bolster its classroom space, here’s a news flash — that ship has sailed.
As readers may recall, the school division closed the elementary school in 2005 as it was unable to get $2 million to $3 million in funding from the Public Schools Finance Board that was required to keep the facility operating over the long term.
Then in 2006, Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation began renting the facility for use as its high school when severe mould contamination forced the closure of its own on-site high school. Sioux Valley later purchased the school for $300,000 from the school division in 2010 and has been using the facility as its own private school ever since.
As you will be able to read tomorrow in the Sun’s Weekend section, Sioux Valley upgraded a few classrooms in the old Fleming building over the summer, added a student lounge, added a new boiler system and conducted minor repairs.
With 130 students from Sioux Valley now within its walls, the former Fleming site is once again a hub of educational activity. And the students are flourishing. This has been an extremely positive story for Sioux Valley and we believe they fit well in the community.
Going back to BSD ownership is simply not an option, nor should it be.
And while we ourselves once postulated that the division should have used a little more foresight before it decided to sell the building to Sioux Valley, given the fact that so many newcomers and their families were beginning to call Brandon home, it has become rather apparent that Fleming School would not have been a good solution for the present student overcrowding situation facing the city.
This is especially true given the fact that student density has been spreading to other areas of the city where new neighbourhood developments are springing up.
Brandon School Division chair Mark Sefton recently noted that the division needs a kindergarten to Grade 8 school in the city’s south end, near Crocus Plains high school.
“There are lots of single-family housing, plus there’s a lot of high-density housing in there as well,” Sefton said.
Another potential school location is at the corner of 26th Street and Maryland. Argyle Courts, Sefton said, has a fairly high density of school-aged kids.
“All through that subdivision, there’s lots of kids. We’ll have to do a careful study of how many school-aged kids there are currently in those areas and then how many are there from (ages) zero to five so we can do some predictions.”
While there are growing families in most areas of the city, the southern section of the city is where the need is. It only makes logical sense to build schools where the majority of young families live, so that busing times are short.
And though it’s true that Sioux Valley’s students travel a half hour from the reserve to the former Fleming site, they are high school students. Ferrying young children across the city every day is never a good solution and when it can be avoided, it should be.
We also note that if and when the Black Farm property on the north side of the city is developed, there will likely be need for a new school in that section of the city as well.
Brandonites need to consider and evaluate the potential solutions to our school overcrowding situations — the ones that still exist — so our trustees can move forward with a viable plan.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 21, 2012