News / Calgary

Calgary Board of Education presses on with Christine Meikle School construction despite lawsuit

Calgary public-school officials have full intentions of soon breaking ground on a new school for special-needs students despite a pending lawsuit from residents in the area that aims to block the development.

Frank Coppinger, the Calgary Board of Education's superintendent for facilities and environmental services, told Metro that the organization's legal team is handling the statement of claim filed by 30 Varsity-area residents against the new Christine Meikle School.

"They're addressing it and we're ignoring it," said Coppinger.

"We're proceeding ahead and our expectation is that a development application will be submitted shortly."

"Theoretically, the police could stop us, but we're carrying on," he added with a chuckle.

The claim, filed Aug. 5, seeks to gain an injunction preventing the school's development, but it's unclear how long that process could take. Plaintiffs, all of which live adjacent to or within a short walking distance of the greenspace in question, are also seeking to have the land turned back to the City of Calgary and declared permanently surplus. Damages for loss of property value and the "high-handed conduct" of the CBE are also being sought.

Their claim is that the CBE declared the land surplus and have violated the Municipal Government Act with its proposed development.

The school board, however, declared in a statement of defence filed Aug. 26 that the lands have "maintained their character as reserve land." It was also said that Varsity residents questioning the school have questioned the I.Q. of students attending Meikle and whether it was actually a medical facility and "used for the purpose of parking students with special needs to the students' parents a break."

The CBE concluded in its defence that the plaintiffs "seek to advance an isolated set of interests which are contrary to the best interests of the citizens of Calgary.

Numerous phone calls to the listed Varsity plaintiffs have not been returned and interview requests made at the doors of some homes were declined. But a response from representing legal firm Christopher Davis Law filed Sept. 5 states "the nature of the proposed facility which the defendant (the CBE) has indicated they intend to construct is not relevant to the action commenced."

CBE officials have maintained the current Christine Meikle School in Bridgeland is heavily dated and doesn't service the needs of its 75 students, many of whom are in wheelchairs. The CBE said it was pursuing an "aggressive timeline" that would see students in new classrooms in September 2016.

A request for construction management proposals issued earlier this year projected that a contract to a builder would be awarded in November.

Shaila Khan, parent council at the current Meikle school, said she's happy construction is proceeding, but worries about the community backlash. Particularly disturbing, she said, was the graffiti written all over the Building Alberta sign planed on the greenspace in Varsity. Scrawled messages included the words "save our park" and others recounted cherished memories in the area.

"It was just like 'Is that really necessary?' " Khan said. "It's not a nice thing to do . . . I hope they're not that facetious or anything to do something like that to the school."

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