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Reject Westheath concept plan since it doesn’t keep kids safe, former trustee urges council

Former Prairie South trustee Jan Radwanski spoke to city council during its Nov. 22 meeting.
Radwanski 1
Jan Radwanski, a former trustee with Prairie South School Division, speaks to city council on Nov. 22. File photo

A former school trustee wants city council to reject the proposed Westheath concept plan since he does not believe it aligns with the Official Community Plan or keeps students safe.

“History shows that this subdivision plan has had some rocky, costly and some unfortunate issues emerge over the past few years,” Jan Radwanski said during a presentation to council on Nov. 22. 

Radwanski asked council — which approved the concept plan on Nov. 8 — to have the project partners revise the concept plan, so it agrees with the Official Community Plan, including being centrally located and near an existing park space.

The former trustee has appeared before council in the past to discuss his concerns about the proposed joint-use school.

Prairie South and Holy Trinity school divisions and the Ministry of Education want to close four elementary schools —with a combined population of 900 students — that have existing access to over 40 acres of schoolyards, playgrounds, fields, tracks, rinks and other green space, he pointed out. 

Furthermore, the revised concept plan put youths in harm’s way since the site is isolated in the southwest corner of South Hill.

“… city council has the opportunity to ensure that the revised concept plan for the Westheath subdivision is one that addresses the spirit of the limited traffic impact assessment done for this project and also the spirit of the Official Community Plan (OCP),” he said.

Radwanski believed the traffic impact assessment (TIA) — which the city wanted the school divisions to perform — was limited because the consultant relied on data that was over 10 years old. This made conducting a full assessment impossible. 

The TIA says nearly 700 students will be bussed to the new school, which means buses will require safe locations adjacent to the curb to load and unload youths, he said. However, due to limited site space, the vehicles will be in a bus corral where students have to walk around, creating “a very, very dangerous” situation.

Furthermore, the revised concept plan will likely force parents to drive down secondary and tertiary streets — even alleys — to leave the area. Radwanski noted that South Hill already faces an accessibility bottleneck that will only worsen with the new school.  

The former Prairie South trustee thought the biggest question was why the concept plan went against the OCP. He pointed out that the OCP says schools should be in central locations to serve multiple neighbourhoods. He thought the Westheath concept plan did not meet that standard. 

Council should ensure that long-existing South Hill neighbourhood schools are retained because taxpayers have spent millions of dollars building up infrastructure around there, Radwanski said. 

However, it appears that $50 million is being spent to construct a school that will abandon those neighbourhoods and the families who live there and pay taxes. Moreover, the school will face a farmer’s field that is sprayed yearly and 15 Wing Air Base’s training area. 

“… accessible school locations for students and families to access pre-k to (Grade) 8 education will all merge into one operation and squeeze them into a 10-acre site versus the 40 acres that those campuses now have,” he continued. 

Council should ensure that the project partners follow the OCP and maintain children’s safety, he stated. He urged council to visit École Palliser Heights School and see how a school with 700 students operates and deals with busing and traffic. 

“It is a situation that is precarious each and every day that school operates,” Radwanski remarked. 

Radwanski accepted that not all four schools would remain open on South Hill but thought one site could be retained as the new location considering the OCP and overall traffic volumes. This would allow kids to walk to school and ensure portables can be added if the building needs to expand. 

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Dec. 13. 

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