Fredericton or Hanwell? Debate continues over where new school should go
**Updated at 8:50 a.m.**
Fredericton mayor Mike O'Brien says a new K-to-8 school should be built in the city, not in the Rural Community of Hanwell.
His remarks come after the findings of a city-commissioned report into a new regional school were presented at Monday night's council-in-committee meeting.
The report highlighted why the capital city would be the best spot to build a new school to serve the southwest corner of the city and Hanwell.
"A school strategically located in one of the fastest-growing areas of the city of Fredericton, very close to the area that says that they want a school, would benefit everybody," he said.
Last year, a study commissioned by the Anglophone West School District to address overcrowding at Fredericton's south side schools recommended building a school in Hanwell.
O'Brien said the results of that report prompted the city to undertake a study of its own.
"We had provided some input to the consultant at the time, but we were concerned that they didn't hear some of the information we gave them on future demographics and government policy and green and complete communities," said O'Brien.
Hanwell renews call for school
The debate over where the new school should go has emotions running high in both Fredericton and Hanwell.
Two weeks ago, the mayor of Hanwell renewed his call for a school to serve his community's growing population.
Chris Melvin said many of the 500-plus students in his community who travel to Fredericton for school spend as long as an hour on the bus.
Melvin said a new school in Hanwell would also help alleviate overcrowding at Fredericton's anglophone schools, which currently have a combined 31 portable classrooms.
But O'Brien contends that building a new school in the southwest corner of Fredericton would address both commute times and overcrowding.
"When you take everything into account it would [benefit Hanwell], but again, it's a very emotional issue and it's hard for me to say that and [have] people accept that, I understand that completely," he said.
Land, infrastructure in place for Fredericton school: O'Brien
O'Brien said it's important to consider future demographics — not just current numbers — when considering the location for a new school.
He said Fredericton's population is projected to grow faster than that of the surrounding region, which makes it the ideal place for a new school.
Land has also been reserved in the area and infrastructure like sidewalks and street lights are already in place, he said.
"We feel quite strongly that significant pieces of infrastructure — schools, major sports complexes, cultural centres — should be located in the urban area," said O'Brien.
He wants the school district to take the new report into account in any future decisions.
Fredericton West-Hanwell MLA Brian Macdonald said in a post on Twitter that it makes sense for the new school to be placed in Hanwell.
"Priority should be to meet the needs of the children. The children that need a school live in Hanwell," said Macdonald.