Local school concerned over loss of skating rink

We realize the outdoor rink season has ended with the advent of spring and appreciate all the efforts by City crews in setting these worthwhile surfaces up and maintaining them. However, there was a glaring omission from their repertoire of rinks this year.

Fairview School’s ‘snow bank’ rink was not included in the City’s list of outdoor ice surfaces this year. We were blindsided by this and only became aware of this ‘initiative’ that was noted in the approved 2011 operating budget impacts on Jan. 17, 2011, via a radio newscast. No consultation occurred whatsoever with staff or students of Fairview School yet they are directly/negatively/hugely affected by the discontinuation of their rink.

We applaud the ongoing consultation regarding water fluoridation with those involved/residents and appreciate this open forum to discuss and consider options. This is an example of the democratic process we try to instill in students. Voter turnout is often limited in elections so meeting with Fairview students would have been a good tactic in order to discuss how decisions are made at City Hall and impact citizens.

This exchange would have been two-fold as council would have realized that Fairview’s rink was not “low use” as deemed in their deliberations regarding operating budgets. Had that been done, it would have been realized that basically the entire school population; where a large proportion of students don’t have other opportunities to skate outside of school, utilized their school ground rink weekly.

Now there is no option for the younger students to get to a rink and skate during school time as the distances are too great.

Fairview has acquired skates and helmets for students of all ages to utilize. The Division 1 students have no way to realistically use this equipment as they can’t walk to a rink, skate, and return to school in one outing.

When letters/concerns were noted to City Hall, return correspondence stated that there were no lights at this rink so it wasn’t used in the evenings and regularly by “community” members.

Are students/children not considered to be members of our community?

It was noted by City Hall personnel that:

“We appreciate that this closure has impacts for both the community and the adjacent schools; however, in these challenging economic times we need to make sometimes difficult decisions to assist with our municipality’s economic sustainability.”

We at Fairview School appreciate that budgetary decisions are difficult at any level of governance and understand that all wishes/wants can’t be incorporated.

We don’t appreciate the process and lack of consideration by not informing the school of this decision. Red Deer Public has a strong operating budget with surpluses.

Perhaps an arrangement could have been made for funds to cover the few thousand dollars it costs to implement and maintain an outdoor rink.

Yet, we’re dumbfounded how the monies for this particular item apparently weren’t available when approximately $45,000 was for:

“As noted in your email, in 2012 City Council did approve ongoing funding for clearing of 20+ kilometres of trails within the Waskasoo Park. This was supported because of large public demand and the opportunity to provide spontaneous use of Red Deer’s trail system throughout the winter. Public response to this new program has been extremely positive and we believe the trail clearing program is a great success for the entire community.”

We don’t know what the public demand and response was for the above but feel it may have catered to a few hundred citizens – the number of skaters Fairview had on the ice (for less than a tenth of the cost).

We’re assuming the trails are considered to be high use and this been monitored. Are more than a hundred young people – our City’s future, utilizing them each week? Once again, if cost saving measures were your intent, then why wasn’t there consultation with Red Deer Public to see if they could provide some monies for the school site rink?

This is not an example of the democratic process and collaboration we want our students to follow. It seems to be a discrepancy when you’re spending so much on trail clearing, which to us seems to impact so few students, and taking away an ice rink which positively provides physical activity for so many youngsters.

We are constantly trying to promote healthy, active living and yet seem to have done the exact opposite by removing Fairview’s rink without discussion and consideration. Obviously this issue is foregone for this school year but after submitting concerns to City Hall last year and again this year, we were hoping they would revisit Fairview’s rink and reinstate it.

Brenda Campbell on behalf of the students and staff of Fairview School