News Release Archive

EDUCATION/CULTURE--School Construction Plan Released
The provincial government is embarking on an ambitious program of
school construction, repair and renovations to replace aging and
overcrowded schools across Nova Scotia, Premier Russell MacLellan
and Education Minister Robbie Harrison announced today.

The school construction plan -- including 36 new school and major
renovation projects, and upgrades to another 57 schools -- has
been approved by government. The plan responds to all of the
needs and priorities identified by school boards in the Report of
the School Capital Construction Committee.

The total value of the schools and repairs called for in the
report is about $360 million, which will be confirmed as
individual projects are approved by cabinet.

"The report paints a clear picture: we have an urgent need for
more schools -- good schools -- in more communities," said
Premier MacLellan. "It's time to get on with the job of building

As an added benefit, the premier said, the investment will
provide a huge economic boost by putting thousands of people to
work in communities across the province.   

The new schools will be completed using a revamped partnership
process among government, school boards, communities and the
private sector. The new approach maintains the benefits of faster
construction and increased community involvement, while adding
more checks and balances to build confidence in the process and
to reach the best possible agreements, school by school.

Cabinet must approve the private sector partner, project costs
and leases; financing arrangements must be in place before
construction begins; and a senior official reporting to the
deputy minister of Transportation and Public Works will
co-ordinate all such projects across government.

Government adopted these recommendations after reviewing the
province's experience with public-private partnerships to date,
in particular, the reasons for delay in reaching financing and
lease agreements. Now, memoranda of agreement for two school
projects have been approved by cabinet, and the legal documents
are being finalized for public release.  

"With these first two agreements, we have a model to follow which
will speed up the next leases and school construction," said
Premier MacLellan. "We also have a revamped process with more
checks and balances.

"The facts and figures will be on the table before a shovel goes
into the ground, so I can be confident -- and taxpayers can be
confident -- that we're getting good schools in a way that makes
sense for taxpayers."

The province can also rapidly respond to all of the needs
identified by school boards. By investing $25 million a year in
leases, planning can begin immediately for new schools. Without
leases, it would take more than 10 years to meet the need for
these schools --a time-frame the education minister says is

"Many of these communities have already waited 10 years or more
for a new school," said Mr. Harrison. "No one should expect our
children to wait any longer."

The School Capital Construction Report lists the school projects
in three categories: critical, essential and important. However,
Mr. Harrison said anyone who visits the schools in any of the
three categories knows they must be replaced as quickly as the
construction industry can build them.

To speed up the process and increase regional consultation, the
school projects will be "bundled" and tendered by region. School
boards, government and partners can then develop integrated
school construction plans for each region, refine schedules, and
start some schools simultaneously -- all with a goal of
shortening the time-frame as laid out in the School Capital
Construction Report.

"We've built the budget. We know the needs, and we will work with
communities and the private sector to build the best quality
schools as quickly as possible," Mr. Harrison said.  

An additional $90 million will be invested over the next three
years in upgrades for 57 schools. These upgrades range from
adding new program areas (e.g., music and art rooms, library
space) to addressing air-quality concerns.

"We're working very hard with school boards on prevention,
developing standards, and responding to concerns through
emergency capital and other funds," said Mr. Harrison. "However,
the age and condition of some of our schools requires a
substantial investment."

A timetable for renovating the additional schools will be
developed with school boards beginning in January.

As well, Mr. Harrison committed to strengthening the partnership
among government, school boards and schools on air-quality
issues. While this school construction plan will have a major
impact on resolving air-quality concerns, a department and school
board committee are meeting to develop strategies to prevent,
identify and respond to such concerns in existing schools.

"This will be a priority in the new year, so students, staff and
parent have confidence in the air quality in all of our schools,"
said the minister.


Contacts: Peter MacLellan
          Office of the Premier

          Donna MacDonald
          Education and Culture

NOTE TO EDITORS: Premier Russell MacLellan will be available to
speak with reporters between 2:15 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. today, Dec.
17, at his Sydney office, 902-563-3440.

A backgrounder on Nova Scotia's plan for school construction is
available at Communications Nova Scotia; please e-mail or call collect 902-424-4492 for a copy. The
School Capital Construction Report is available at the Department
of Education and Culture at 902-424-2615.

ngr                  Dec. 17, 1997                12:05 p.m.