I’ve been listening to the arguments of Education Minister Jody Carr on the cancellation of the Kennebecasis Park Elementary School project in Rothesay. On the surface, it might make sense to combine the need for increased seats in Quispamsis with the need to replace the aging school in Kennebecasis Park. The two communities are close together, so couldn’t those two needs be served by one new school – killing two birds with one stone as it were?
What doesn’t add up for me is that Kennebecasis Park isn’t really that close to the growing areas of Quispamsis. Kennebecasis Park is about 3km from the Saint John city limits, where the growing neighbourhoods in Quispamsis are about 13km away, or about a 20 minute drive. That’s like saying we have a need for a new school for students in downtown Fredericton, and building it out by the Fredericton airport. Or, saying we need a new school on Main Street in Moncton, and building it at Magnetic Hill.
Perhaps the reason Carr isn’t talking about combining this school with a Saint John school is because they are in different districts (Saint John is District 8, Rothesay/Quispamsis is District 6). However, if we are talking about geographical proximity, it’s not really a strong case on those grounds alone. We aren’t talking about remote rural areas like Belleisle where any students will need to be bused regardless; these are relatively densely populated areas with sufficient student populations to merit and sustain a school.
So, when Carr is talking about building a combined school for student populations 13km apart, what does he mean? Is he closing down the Kennebecais Park School, which is a cornerstone of the community? Is he talking about busing kids in Quispamsis through Rothesay and almost all of the way to Saint John? Is he talking about finding some middle ground somewhere that could be developed? If so, where? There’s not a lot of vacant lots between Quispamsis and Saint John right now.
In any case, Carr’s answers just leave me with more questions.
Update: Minister Blaney announced on July 7 that the existing KPark school will be renovated at a cost of $5 million. The previous budget for the new school was $12.2 million. At one point, Blaney and Carr were advocating building a single school to meet all of the needs of growing student population in the Kennebecasis Valley. But, for now the government seems to be concentrating on the most pressing need in Kennebecasis Park, and students in other parts of Quispamsis and Rothesay will stay in portables.