POLITICS

Saskatchewan needs more schools to hold growing number of students: premier

10/16/2013 03:21 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the government's focus this fall will be on getting more schools, more quickly.

"We have a real demand across the province, especially in the major centres, for spaces for growing enrolments," Wall said Wednesday before a provincial cabinet meeting.

"This is a better problem to have than declining enrolments, but it's a challenge that we need to face and so we're going to be focused on that."

Many Saskatchewan schools have seen the number of students swell as the province's population grows.

Statistics Canada said in September that the number of people living in the province has passed the 1.1 million mark for the first time. That's an increase of 20,757 people in the last year and more than 106,000 people since 2007.

The Regina Catholic School Division said in August that some schools in the city are at 150 per cent capacity.

Saskatoon Public Schools says it has gained more than 2,600 students in the last five years. There were 22,757 students in Saskatoon public schools at the end of September — up 682 students since September 2012.

The premier says, given the number of schools needed, the province could look at bundling schools like Alberta has done. That means building schools in bulk, all with similar designs, and could include a public-private partnership.

"We might have to look at bundling a number of these schools so that we can achieve the space we need in a more timely manner," he said.

"If we were to wait to ... cash flow all the schools that need to be built now in Saskatoon — and in Regina there's pressures as well — it would be a very long time before we build them in a balanced budget."

Wall said schools will be in next week's throne speech to open the fall sitting of the legislature. He hints there could also be more details before the speech next Wednesday.