News that the Ministry of Education has denied the Bluewater District School Board’s requests for funding to build new schools in Hanover and Markdale is really no surprise to trustees.
At least three trustees, along with Director Steve Blake, say until BWDSB “gets a handle on empty classroom space” the Ministry will not support such capital projects.
The board had applied for funding under the Ministry of Education’s Captital Priorities Grant. School boards across the province identified over 260 projects, worth approximately $2.7 billion. Approvals were based on addressing the most urgent and pressing needs across the province and the priority ranked by the board.
Bluewater applied for funding for a new elementary/secondary school in Hanover and a new elementary school in Markdale. Both projects were slated to open in 2016-17.
In responding to the board’s request, the Ministry said in a letter they are “supportive of the (Hanover) project but did not approve it at this time due to limited capital funding. The Ministry may consider it in the future.”
And in response to the request for Markdale, the answer was the project was not considered for funding at this time “due to a lack of an immediate need as identified by the Ministry.”
Board chair Marg Gaviller said the ministry funded the purchase of the Hanover property and said she believes “they’re keeping a close eye on us to see how we are dealing with our excess space issue. It behooves us to pay attention and deal with that during the ARC review process. When we address the issue of all of excess space, they will consider funding those projects.”
Meaford-area trustee Fran Morgan and Wiarton area trustee Terry Bell agreed with Gaviller. During a visit by Ministry staff to the board last fall, “we were told to get our financial house in order," Bell said. “We’re under the Ministry microscope,” Bell and Morgan added.
“We have to be very aware of that… there will be no money coming until we prove we’ve got our act together,” Morgan said.