POLITICS

Saskatchewan schools in need of repairs; long-term plan required: NDP

01/20/2015 11:54 EST | Updated 03/22/2015 05:59 EDT
REGINA - Saskatchewan's Opposition criticized the government Tuesday for the condition of schools across the province and called for a long-term plan to address repairs.

NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said school administrators are facing leaky roofs and generally rundown buildings. He wanted to raise the issue while the government works on its budget, set to be presented in March, he added.

"There needs to be a budgetary amount but there also needs a clear plan as to ... what the schedule is going to be," Wotherspoon said. "Importantly, government can't turn a blind eye here."

The NDP cited a 2013 report from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, which said 75 per cent of school roofs would fail within five years.

"We just want to make sure one thing is certainly advanced and made a priority, something that hasn't been a priority of this government, and it's fixing the schools that are in disrepair and in too many cases unsafe conditions for students," Wotherspoon said.

The Opposition also said inspections in one Saskatoon-area division showed five schools aren't safe because of structural problems.

Donna Johnson, assistant deputy education minister, said the condition of schools across the province is generally good.

"The school divisions do a very good job of making sure that the schools are well-maintained," she said. "They have significant budgets in order to allow them to do that and they take their responsibility seriously."

The government has estimated that over the next several years, school repairs and infrastructure work could total up to $1.5 billion, Johnson said.

"The figures will always change with every coming year, and with every coming storm, as far as that goes."

She said the province's 28 school divisions receive a combined $200 million for operations and maintenance.