Integrated college campus project shelved

HPSD rescinds motion to offer land to NLC

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Hopes of building a one-stop education facility including Northern Lakes College, and high schools for both the public and Catholic school systems, are being shelved.

At its April 25 meeting, the High Prairie School Division board of trustees rescinded a motion made June 21, 2017 to offer land to NLC to build Integrated College Campus facility near High Prairie Elementary School. The motion effectively kills the project.

“It was a tough decision to make,” says HPSD board of trustees chair Tammy Henkel.

However, after further examining the project, and recognizing the fact the Alberta government indicated there would likely be no funding for such a project in the near future, the decision was made.

“We could be doing a disservice to our kids,” says Henkel.

NLC board chair Dan Vandermeulen had the letter notifying NLC of HPSD’s motion sent to him by electronic mail on May 4.

“I had talked to [Henkel] that they had concerns,” says Vandermeulen.

He adds the NLC board meets May 24 but as far as he in concerned, the integrated campus concept is over.

“That’s the end of the negotiations.”

Vandermeulen calls HPSD’s decision “disappointing”, but adds the decision does not mean that NLC is stopping progress on its new High Prairie campus.

“The rescinding of the motion will not delay the project,” he says. “I thought we’d have a tri-campus. If that’s not to be, we will proceed.”

Vandermeulen says NLC can proceed building on land it owns on the current site and to the north. Plans for the new campus will fit on the available land.

Henkel says after examining the details of the project, HPSD students would not have their short-term educational needs met, and that concerned the board.

“The government felt [approved funding] to be challenging for both high schools in High Prairie…to get that large a capital investment,” says Henkel.

Simply getting money for the new campus was not the only issue. There was an additional cost to transfer students to other schools [elementary students to PRJH and PRJH students to E.W. Pratt] in preparation for the new high school.

“We’d need significant capital investment to move and remodel both schools,” says Henkel.

The fact the high school portion of the project was not included in the Alberta government’s 2018 budget also concerned the board. Although Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee supported the project, there were too many other projects in Alberta which rated higher in the government’s priority list.

“Who knows what government will be in power [in a year or two]?” says Henkel.

“At the end of the day, our first focus is to support our K-Grade 12 students, not just the Grade 10-12 students,” she adds. “We didn’t feel it was in the best interests of our kids.”

There also concerns about how NLC would offer the needs to Outreach students.

Henkel adds the decision in no way affects the excellent relationship HPSD and NLC share in the dual credits program offered to high school students by NLC.

Henkel shares Vandermeulen’s disappointment.

“I know it’s a disappointment. We were all excited and I include the municipalities. Everyone was excited to see something. [Further examination of the project] made the board re-evaluate what the project was about.”

 

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