News / Calgary

Calgary Board of Education worries of precedent minister could set in Scenic Acres school dispute

Calgary's top public-school trustee is expressing concerns after Alberta's education minister said he plans to sit down with residents outraged by a planned Francophone facility in their neighbourhood.

The 400-student school eyed in Scenic Acres would be built on greenspace owned by the regional Conseil Scolaire FrancoSud board, but many neighbours said they were never given indication of the site's future development.

Currently, the site is one of few remaining parks in the northwest community.

The Francophone board was presented with alternative sites, but said its original plan was the only way to ensure the much-needed school opened on time in 2016.

Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson told Metro earlier this week he would meet with residents to see if a solution could be ironed out, but added it wasn't his place to mandate where a school is erected.

But Joy Bowen-Eyre, Calgary Board of Education trustee chair, said in a letter to Johnson Tuesday that she and fellow board members, "are concerned that parent and resident appeals to ministers should not be seen as a standard recourse for small dissatisfied groups."

She added that such a meeting could give the impression that the minister, "will request municipalities and school boards to pursue outcomes not beneficial to all citizens of Calgary . . ."

Bowen-Eyre was travelling and unavailable for an interview Wednesday afternoon, a CBE spokesperson said.

But area Coun. Ward Sutherland took issue with the trustee's claim that the Scenic Acres opposition was "small" — a group of 350 residents did attend a meeting to oppose the project in late May.

Sutherland added that without Johnson providing oversight on school placements, boards will have free reign.

He's repeatedly criticized the Francophone board for not properly consulting with Scenic Acres residents and shared similar concerns about the CBE's actions previously while serving as a community association representative for Rocky Ridge and Royal Oak.

He recalled scenarios where the city planners suggested one site and school boards went in another direction.

"Then the city has to deal with the fallout of the traffic issues and all the complications because they just chose not to listen to what the best solution was," Sutherland said.

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