‘Not asking for the moon’: CBE trustees worry what lack of capital funding means for future

Calgary Board of Education trustees are expressing their disappointment with the province’s decision not to fund any of the board’s capital project requests in this year’s round of funding, announced earlier this month

Trustees made the comments at Tuesday’s public board meeting where they voted to approve the CBE’s annual capital plan, which is required by the province annually.

“We’re very disappointed that none of our projects were approved,” said Wards 8 and 9 trustee Richard Hehr. “We, of course, go through a very lengthy and detailed process to come up with a fair and balanced, constructive evaluation as to what are our needs.”

Trina Hurdman, trustee for Wards 1 and 2, said she hopes the province recognizes the plan the board is putting forward this year for their consideration to be fiscally responsible but increasingly urgent.

“We are not asking for the moon in any way, shape or form. We are really asking for our most urgent needs. And we’re not asking for one new school and three major modernizations in year one, hoping to just get one of them approved. We’re asking for four projects because we need four approved,” she said. 

The plan is seeking funding for the construction of one new middle school in Evanston and the modernization of three existing schools: John G. Diefenbaker High School, Nickle School and A.E. Cross School in the 2022 school year. 

“These modernizations, if you look at the description of them, they’re definitely not things that are just nice to haves or filling a school with bells and whistles,” she said. 

Trina Hurdman, CBE trustee for Wards 1 and 2, says the funding would be used for projects like hazardous material abatement. (CBE)

Instead, Hurdman said it’s focusing on things like upgrading the building envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, doing building and code upgrades, including sprinkler systems and hazardous material abatement.

“These are really things that are needed inside our schools and I hope that the province will be able to find the money in order to fund our request on this capital plan.”

Julie Hrdlicka, trustee for Wards 11 and 13, said with over 50 per cent of the CBE’s buildings over 50 years old, these capital projects are vital.

“Our children spend 40 to 50 per cent of their day, awake, in our schools and so we need our province investing in our plan,” she said. 

‘Really disappointing’

Hrdlicka said in her six years as a trustee, this year was the first that the CBE did not receive any capital dollars from the province. 

“This is really disappointing. It brings back kind of those feelings of the ’90s, and I hope that’s not where we’re headed, where we weren’t investing in infrastructure as a province,” she said.

“I know schools for a long time, for many years, did not get modernization or new schools weren’t built. That impacted our system and has led to some of the challenges we have today in our system. Busing issues, location of schools, all those kind of things,” she said. “So I am concerned, I think that we continue to be a growing system and we need those supports for new schools.” 

That plan will now be submitted to the province for consideration. Capital funding is announced in March of each year.

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