Cookie-cutter P3 schools to need 68 portable classrooms

When nine P3 schools open in 2017, they’ll already be so overcrowded that many students will be moved into 38 portables, and another 30 portables will be added over the following four years.

The Sask. Party’s portables plan was obtained by the NDP through a claim under access to information laws.

“These schools obviously aren’t being built to fit the needs of the neighbourhoods, communities and students that need new schools,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten, who questioned the government about the plan to house students in portables during the legislature’s question period on Wednesday.

“I don’t think a portable classroom is the best learning environment we can give our kids, and it’s incredibly frustrating that with the Sask. Party’s costly P3 rent-a-school scheme, we’ll pay millions more per school only to put thousands of kids in that situation.”

At one time, Brad Wall understood that portable classrooms aren’t ideal.

“Portable classrooms are not the long-term solution and don’t provide the kind of learning environment we need for our students and teachers,” Wall said in November 2013.

Broten said the cookie-cutter approach of P3 schools is to blame. Rather than being designed with individual communities in mind, a single design from the international consortium is replicated nine times, and without flexibility. In Alberta, that lack of flexibility resulted in the private partner’s refusal to allow groups like sports teams to use the building after school hours.

“Each school in Saskatchewan is an incredibly important part of a neighbourhood,” said Broten. “Our schools are a home for Brownies and Cub Scouts, clubs and sports teams. They’re where we host community events and kindergarten recitals. By plowing ahead with P3s instead of just building the schools we need, the Sask. Party is giving up a lot of what makes a school the unique hub of its community. The fact that the P3 schools will fail to meet the needs of the students right from day one speaks volumes about how this cookie-cutter P3 approach just isn’t best for students, families and teachers.”

The P3 schools will cost $70.6 million per school, including the cost of having a corporation from Milwaukee handle maintenance in the schools for 30 years. The most expensive joint-use school ever built in Saskatchewan cost $51 million, while most cost millions less than that.

Broten said the extra $20 million per school, the fact that school maintenance will be done by a Milwaukee corporation, and the fact that the schools simply don’t fit the needs of the community all point to the conclusion a joint-ownership P3 rental just doesn’t work for schools.