Kelvin school community fights for gym project funding

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Kelvin school community fights for gym project funding

Parents, staff and students rallied on the steps of the Manitoba legislature Wednesday afternoon to protest the province's decision not to fund the school's planned gymnasium addition.

The Progressive Conservative government announced in March it would no longer move forward with the $6.7-million, 17,000 square-foot addition that was promised by the previous NDP government in 2014. 

"To have them revoke that after we raised over a million dollars, it didn't seem quite fair, and so that's why we're here today," said Grade 12 student Elijah Dietrich.

Part of the original deal was for the community to come to the table and help support the project. The Kelvin community raised $1.2 million toward the $6.7-million price tag through various campaigns.

"We really believe in the need for a gym. We know it to be true because we live it," said Shawna Nagler-Neufeld, who is on the school's parent advisory council.

"Every day we watch our kids every day live this truth. It felt a little tone-deaf that that was being dropped." 

Thomas Wright, another Grade 12 Kelvin student, said the demands on the school's current gym are well beyond its capacity. He said students in Grade 11 and 12 have no class-time access to the gym, and have to get their physical education credits through private gyms or other activities.

"Students are required to get by and pay for gym memberships and transportation to the gym," said Wright.

He said physical education is part of the school curriculum and forcing students to find alternative ways to earn their credits takes time out of their schedules. He also said the province isn't living up to its requirement to properly fund education.

"It's a public school. It is to be funded by and supported by the provincial government. It is definitely a need that needs to be met and a promise that needs to be kept."

After the rally outside, some students went into the gallery as the legislature was in session, where MLA Wab Kinew grilled the premier on making cuts to a project that would support one of the largest high schools in the province. 

Brian Pallister responded by saying the province couldn't build the gym because of the deficit left behind by the previous NDP government.

Many at the rally are still holding on to hope that the government will change its decision, while others looked at the opportunity to rally and lobby as a teachable moment about civic engagement and politics.

"I really would love to see the end result of all this amazing teaching be the realization of these students' dreams," said Nagler-Neufeld.