Money for new school, upgraded ventilation, housing in P.E.I capital budget

There was an ongoing renovation at École Évangéline when Fiona hit, causing major damage to the roof. (Submitted by Melissa DeJong - image credit)
There was an ongoing renovation at École Évangéline when Fiona hit, causing major damage to the roof. (Submitted by Melissa DeJong - image credit)

Islanders were reacting Thursday to the largest capital budget in P.E.I.'s history, in which the government plans to spend $308 million in the next fiscal year on schools, roads and government-owned housing.

"As a school board we were really pleased to see there is going to be investments in capital projects for two of our schools," said Gilles Arsenault, superintendent of the French Language School Board.

In the budget, $41 million is going toward a new school in Evangeline. The current one was severely damaged by Fiona — and has been closed since the storm.

"We'll be able to modernize our facility," Arsenault said. "It's going to be the focal point of the community. And the school has been in that location on those premises since 1960 so it is a refreshing moment."

He said that project will take about three years to complete.

Sally Pitt/CBC
Sally Pitt/CBC

Another $12 million is being allocated for an expansion of École François-Buote.

"We're anticipating to build an extension to the building that is going to accommodate up to 750 students," Arsenault said.

There are around 470 students going to the school, but enrolment continues to climb, he said.

Ventilation system upgrades

Roughly $8 million in the budget will go toward upgrading ventilation systems in schools and other public buildings.

Some schools are using portable filters, but the hope is that every school in the Public Schools Branch will have a mechanical ventilation system, said PSB director Norbert Carpenter.

"If COVID has taught us anything there is things that need to be improved and ventilation is one of them," said Carpenter.

"Right now we have five major projects nearing completion at schools and now with this recommitment of dollars the other five will be done as well to ensure that mechanical ventilation is at all schools in the Public Schools Branch."

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

Government-owned housing

Housing was another big focus in the budget. Government committed to build 365 more publicly-owned units, but members with the P.E.I. Fight For Affordable Housing say that is not nearly enough.

"We're hearing from people pretty much every day that they can't afford rent, the rent is impossibly high everywhere they look at the market," said Cory Pater with P.E.I. Fight For Affordable Housing.

"It's good to see that they are building or getting new public housing, but there needs to be more."

The government said it would like to see more units on the market to get P.E.I.'s vacancy rate up to four per cent.