A recent Edmonton Journal editorial criticizing the decision as “anti-sprawl” and “ill-advised” was a slightly misleading considering that six new large public schools have recently been opened suburban neighbourhoods. Catching up on the growing deferred maintenance deficit, which was largely ignored by previous Public School Board Trustees, needs to be addressed. It must have been a tough decision for the Trustees to make, but it was a responsible decision.
Taking positions on urban development may not seem like an immediate responsibility of an elected Trustee, but it is an issue that effects the maintenance of current and development of future education infrastructure that the school boards are tasked to govern. Trustees have a responsibility to be community leaders, and just like City Councillors, Members of the Legislative Assembly, and Members of Parliament, they should not shy away from issues that have a direct effect on their communities. As community leaders they should not be satisfied to remain in administrative silos.
One of the biggest challenges facing Edmonton’s urban core neighbourhoods is how to make them more friendly to families. There are complex challenges facing these neighbourhoods, one of which is the maintenance of school programs. Close a school and you will certainly kill a community. This said, the demand for public schools in every neighbourhood is not the same in 2011 as it was in 1965, when people were having more children and larger families.
Edmonton City Council has yet to deal with the growing issue of urban sprawl, and the pressure it puts on the City’s financial and infrastructure resources. “The Way we Grow” municipal development plan calls for a 70/30 balance between new development and infill in already established neighbourhoods. In reality, the vast majority of new development is still taking place in new suburban neighbourhoods of the city.
Kudos to Edmonton’s Public School Board Trustees for stepping up and showing leadership.
(Image borrowed from Ward F Trustee Michael Janz‘s blog)