The deadline for Alberta Education to approve new ward boundaries in Rocky View Schools (RVS) passed on April 16 with no response from the government to RVS’s proposed ward changes.
“I’m extremely frustrated and disappointed to…still have not heard anything at all about our request for the boundary change from the Minister’s office,” said RVS Ward Two Trustee Bev LaPeare.
RVS had tried to contact Alberta Education prior to the deadline and did not receive any response.
“Our Superintendent emailed the Deputy Minister on the weekend after we tried to get some answers last week but there’s been no reply as of yet,” she said in an e-mail April 17.
The approval from Alberta Education was required by the end of last week, April 16, to meet the legislated requirement that any changes to ward boundaries must be done prior to six months before the next election.
“With the next municipal elections in October of 2017…that would mean that we would have to have something in writing from the minister prior to that,” she said.
Last week was a tense week for RVS trustee’s as they waited for the decision from the province.
While the deadline has passed, LaPeare is unsure whether the Minister can still approve the change before the next election.
“I’ve been reading through the School Act and the Local Authorities Election Act and I’m not sure if the Minister of Education may have the authority to “bend” the date requirements,” said LaPeare.
The ward boundaries review was undertaken in light of the growth in the region to rebalance the RVS board representation by population.
“Things have changed so much since I came on the board,” she said, “we did our last ward boundaries review, I guess it would be two boards ago.”
LaPeare said that the goal of the review was to ensure that no ward was off by plus or minus 25 per cent compared to the others.
“There’s been significant growth in various areas…but the growth has been somewhat lopsided,” she said.
In LaPeare’s ward, Ward Two, which includes Chestermere and the surrounding rural areas, there is about 20 percent of the population but is only represented by one trustee.
“That doesn’t give my current ward enough representation in terms of population,” she said.
LaPeare said that her ward isn’t the only one that is under represented at the board table.
This problem will be resolved if the province were to approve the changes.
“It was lopsided so we needed to correct that,” said LaPeare.
The board hired a consultant to look into realigning the boundaries. Several different potential ward changes were discussed.
“We took a long, long time trying to figure out what to do with this,” said LaPeare.
The changed boundaries include splitting LaPeare’s ward in two.
“So there’ll be two trustees in my current ward, one representing the City of Chestermere and one representing the rural area,” she said.
While LaPeare agrees that this change is in the best interests of her constituents, she said she is sad to see her ward split.
“This has been my ward for 13 years,” she said.
LaPeare, who lives in the rural part of the ward, will go on to run in and if re-elected represent the new rural RVS ward.
In addition to changes to the boundaries, there is also the addition of a third Airdrie trustee.
One of the considerations when making the changes was to make sure that the changes wouldn’t create a voting bloc that could dominate RVS meetings.
“That’s one of the reasons why moving to eight trustees works better than staying at seven,” she said.
The chosen option will see RVS have six wards represented by 8 trustees.
The board voted on and approved the chosen realignment at the January 26 board meeting.
After the necessary changes were made to all of the effected bylaws, the proposed changes were submitted to Alberta Education for approval.
Additional information on the changes can be found online on the Rocky View Schools website at http://www.rockyview.ab.ca/wardboundary/ward-boundary-review.