Education

Auditor general questions new Eastern Passage school

School capital planning report states there is no reason to build new school

The School Capital Planning report from the auditor general.
The School Capital Planning Report from the auditor general.   Moriah Campbell

The province has indicated it will proceed with building a new high school in Eastern Passage, even though the auditor general questions the need for it.

An audit found that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development could not find any evidence that a new $20-million school is needed.

The auditor general’s office suggested a review of the decision.

At a news conference Wednesday, Auditor General Michael Pickup referred to the decision as “somewhat shameful” and said he still does not know why the funding for the school was approved.

“I think Nova Scotians deserve an answer,” said Pickup.

The province doesn’t agree with the auditor general’s recommendation.

“The current government is honoring the school capital construction commitments made by the previous government,” states the Department of Education in the auditor general’s report.

Although the department is responsible for informing the cabinet on new school planning, the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) is responsible for recommending school closures and the building of new schools. The cabinet then makes the final decision.

According to the report, “no one at the department could tell us what led to the desire for a new Eastern Passage High School, but the evidence provided prior to that decision consistently showed it was not necessary.”

The report states that, in 2004, the HRSB put forward a proposal for a new high school in Eastern Passage, however the Department of Education did not support the submission.

Reports conducted for the HRSB in 2007 and 2010 went further to suggest not only are no more high schools needed in Eastern Passage, but that because of the population numbers within 10 years a high school closure could be necessary.

In going ahead with the project as planned, the audit report states that both Cole Harbour High and Auburn Drive High would be at a 50 per cent combined use when the Eastern Passage school opens.

“It was quite clear from the get go that this decision was not being revisited,” said Pickup when asked about his conversation with the department regarding the decision review.