Houston government still keeping locations secret of 4 new Halifax schools

The province of Nova Scotia is still tight-lipped on where four new schools planned for the Halifax Regional Municipality will be located. (Shutterstock - image credit)
The province of Nova Scotia is still tight-lipped on where four new schools planned for the Halifax Regional Municipality will be located. (Shutterstock - image credit)

It's been nearly a year since Nova Scotia's education minister told an assembly of elementary students in New Germany they would be getting a new school — one of eight the government intends to build by 2027 to address aging infrastructure and a growing population.

But in the months since Becky Druhan's announcement, no further details have been released about the locations of four of those much-anticipated schools, which are earmarked for rapidly expanding communities within the Halifax Regional Municipality.

On Thursday, Premier Tim Houston suggested the secrecy is needed to ensure taxpayers don't end up paying a premium for the land that will eventually house the schools.

"If we were to talk about specifically where we wanted schools, what do you think is going to happen to the price of land in those areas?" Houston told reporters. "It would make it more difficult to secure the site.

"So the department has a good knowledge where schools need to be, but we do believe that we need to go out and get that land."

Druhan said Thursday she's very proud of the $1-billion capital plan her department has put together to build, improve or expand schools, and reiterated what the governing Progressive Conservatives have said for months — she would soon "be in a position to announce specific locations associated with those schools."

Lack of details 'really worrisome': NDP

But opposition politicians suggested the reason for the delay is partisan rather than fiscal.

"They've told people in Conservative ridings where their schools are going to go," said Liberal Leader Zach Churchill. "I think they're holding back just to make announcements closer to an election.

"But they've got to put the interests of people and students and families ahead of their own partisan interests."

NDP Leader Claudia Chender called it "alarming" that people in the capital city still don't know where new schools are going to be built.

"I think it's really, really worrisome. We see announcements in and builds happening across the province in PC ridings, and here in HRM — where the vast majority of the new arrivals to our province have landed in the last few years — we have no new schools."

Since last June, other than New Germany, new schools have been announced in Porters Lake, Trenton and West Hants.  A number of schools are also getting modular classrooms to help accommodate growing enrolment.

Capital plan could be adjusted, says minister

Chender called plans for modular additions "laughable" and suggested the Halifax region might need double the number of new schools promised in last year's capital plan.

In fast-growing Halifax-area communities like Bedford, some parents have said even new schools are quickly running out of space.

Churchill said ensuring there's adequate housing and schools seems to be an afterthought for a government focused on doubling Nova Scotia's population.

Druhan said if four schools aren't sufficient for the Halifax region, the plan could be revisited.

"If there's a need for more, we'll consider that and make changes to the plan," she said.