News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

November 8, 2001

PROVINCE MOVES TO MODERNIZE SCHOOL DIVISION BOUNDARIES

Province Moves To Modernize School Division Boundaries


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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

Winnipeg

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."

School division boundary maps are available on the Internet at:

http://www.gov.mb.ca/amalgamation.

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BACKGROUND INFORMATION.

BACKGROUNDER

School Divisions

Currently there are 54 school divisions and districts in Manitoba.

  • nine school divisions in Winnipeg.
  • 36 school divisions/districts in rural Manitoba.
  • eight school divisions/districts in Northern Manitoba.
  • one school division, the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine, has a provincewide mandate.

Amalgamations

The divisions that will be merging, including those merging voluntarily, are:

Northern Manitoba

Churchill, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Snow Lake with Frontier.

Rural Manitoba

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

Winnipeg

  • Transcona-Springfield (urban) with River East
  • St.Boniface/ St.Vital
  • Ft. Garry with Assiniboine South

With respect to the Pine Falls and Whiteshell School divisions, the amalgamation process will require more time to complete than with the other divisions. Both divisions have special funding arrangements that must be preserved while amalgamation is discussed.

Administration cost reduction targets

  • Average administrative cost in comparison to overall budgets is 4.7% provincewide.
  • There are a few divisions that are below 4% already.
  • The costs included under this definition include costs of the administration component for transportation, operations and maintenance, curriculum development and divisional administration.
  • The administrative reduction targets do not include any required reductions in the administrative costs for programming for special needs students.

A Brief History of School Boards and Amalgamation in Manitoba

1871 - 24 school districts created throughout province

1924 - 2,094 districts

1946 - Public Schools Act amended to encourage amalgamation

1959 - Royal Commission on Education led to creation of 46 school divisions, but leaving elementary schools in independent schools districts

1966 - Province again encourages amalgamation, all independent school districts soon merged with the 46 school division authorities. In addition, approximately 10 school districts, often in remote areas, continued to exist. This provided the foundation for most of the current divisions.

Late 1960s - Boundaries Review Commission recommended creation of regional boards, but the commission's recommendations were not acted on.

1994 - Manitoba School Divisions/Districts Boundaries Review Commission (Norrie Commission) concluded that there are numerous educational and economic benefits from reducing divisions. Norrie recommended cutting the number of divisions to 21 - four in Winnipeg, 13 in rural Manitoba, and two in the North, leaving the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the Frontier School Division as is. The recommended number of divisions was later revised to 22. Norrie recommended a complete redrawing of the school division map, not simply division mergers. This report was not acted on.

Late 1990s - Two voluntary school division amalgamations proceeded - Norwood has merged with St. Boniface, and Tiger Hills and Pembina Valley became the Prairie Spirit School Division.

2000 - Education, Training and Youth Minister Drew Caldwell wrote to divisions informing them of the province's intent to reduce the number of school divisions and asked divisions to consider the benefits of voluntary mergers. Since then a number of divisions have moved forward on voluntary amalgamation plans. These include:

  • Rhineland and Boundary School divisions
  • Frontier and Churchill School divisions
  • Mountain and Prairie Spirit School divisions
  • Red River and Morris-MacDonald School divisions

Other divisions have indicated interest in voluntary amalgamation but have been unable to find a partner.

- The minister announces the provincial amalgamation plan.