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Provincial Modernization of School Boundaries

News Release

November 8, 2001

Amalgamation to Reduce Administrative Duplication,
Direct More Resources to Manitoba Classrooms: Caldwell

Education, Training and Youth Minister Drew Caldwell today announced that the number of school divisions in the province will be reduced from 54 to 37--or one third fewer--by merging various divisions and creating new division boundaries throughout the province.

The new divisions will be in place in time for elections in October 2002. As part of today’s announcement, the province is also mandating school division administrative cost limits (excluding special needs) throughout the province of four per cent for Winnipeg and Brandon, 4.5 per cent in rural Manitoba and five per cent in the North.

"By reducing the number of school divisions, we have an opportunity to reduce administrative duplication and costs at the school division level and to focus those resources into the classroom for the benefit of our children," said Caldwell. "We believe we have achieved a balanced plan that reduces divisions by about one-third--a significant reduction, but not one so sweeping as to create undue upheaval in the system."

The minister noted that all regions of the province would undergo some changes. The changes are summarized as follows:

The North

Reducing the current eight divisions to four, by amalgamating the Churchill, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Snow Lake districts with the Frontier School Division.

Rural Manitoba

Reducing the current 36 school divisions to 26 with the following amalgamations:

Boundary, Sprague and Rhineland
Mountain and Prairie Spirit
Red River and Morris-Macdonald
Pine Falls, Whiteshell, and the rural portion of Transcona-Springfield with Agassiz
Souris Valley with Antler River
White Horse Plain with Midland
Pelly Trail with Birdtail River
Duck Mountain with Frontier, Swan Valley, Dauphin-Ochre

Reducing the current nine divisions to six with the following amalgamations:

River East with the urban portion of Transcona-Springfield
St. Boniface with St. Vital
Fort Garry with Assiniboine South
"In recent years, a number of provincial jurisdictions have examined and restructured school division boundaries," said Caldwell. "The large number of school divisions in our province today is not in sync with the current student population and distribution.

"The result of amalgamation will be more equalization of resources between divisions, lessening of inequalities and a levelling of the playing field between the bigger and smaller divisions. Hard work and co-operation between all the partners in this process will make amalgamation a success. We look forward to working with all divisions on this important initiative that will yield significant long-term benefits."

The minister said that, in recent years, changing population and enrolment in rural Manitoba has meant that a number of divisions have had a decrease in student numbers. He also noted that, despite this fact, there has been minimal modification to school division boundaries--with the last major consolidation of school districts occurring in the early 1960s.

In 1994, a School Boundaries Review led by former Winnipeg mayor William Norrie recommended redrawing school boundary maps and reducing the number of divisions to 22. These recommendations were not implemented in Manitoba. In most other provinces, the number of school boards has been reduced in recent years.

"Experience from the past in Manitoba, as well as from other jurisdictions, indicates that there are benefits to be gained from amalgamation," said Caldwell. "By expanding the student and resource base, there will be more opportunities for students."

He added that, in general, larger divisions have a greater ability to enhance programming options, provide more top-quality services, access technological resources and provide more career development options for teachers.

Other moves associated with the amalgamation plan include:

Instituting a three-year moratorium on school closures in the new amalgamated divisions to ensure a minimal disruption in the public school system as divisions amalgamate.
Ensuring divisions participating in voluntary amalgamation continue to receive temporary transitional funding of $50 per pupil. (School divisions already in the process of amalgamation include Rhineland with Boundary, Frontier with Churchill, Morris Macdonald with Red River and Mountain with Prairie Spirit.)
Mandating administrative cost limits for all divisions--four per cent in Winnipeg and Brandon, 4.5 per cent in rural Manitoba and five per cent in the North--to allow more resources into the classroom. This includes limits on general administration, transportation administration costs, operations, maintenance, curriculum consulting and development costs but excludes costs for special needs services. The average administrative cost level in Manitoba divisions is currently 4.7 per cent, with some divisions’ costs at more than eight per cent.
Capping the maximum number of trustees in any single school division at nine--reducing the total number of trustees in the province by approximately 100. The new divisions are being asked to create new electoral wards by March 1, 2002. If necessary, Manitoba’s Chief Electoral Officer will recommend to the education minister an independent arbiter to assist in cases where this ward deadline is not met.
"By sending a strong signal about the acceptable levels of administrative costs, divisions will have to look closely for cost-savings and efficiencies within their own administrative operations," said Caldwell.

"The changes announced today will modernize the existing system and help to ensure the long-term viability of school divisions. At the same time, these changes will create opportunities for our children by freeing up resources to go back into the classroom and support their education."