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MLA wants New School Readiness Act passed at next legislative session

Halifax Atlantic MLA Brendan Maguire says J.L. Ilsley High School opened its doors earlier this year without functioning security cameras or a sprinkler system
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After a Liberal MLA learned a newly constructed high school opened in Spryfield earlier this year without fire and security systems, he is hoping the province will look at his new piece of legislation at its next legislative session.

Halifax Atlantic MLA Brendan Maguire tabled the New School Readiness Act on Nov. 3 which would require a new school or an addition to an existing school to have security cameras and fire alarms in good working order before opening to public use.

The new J.L. Ilsley High School, which serves students in grades 9 to 12, was constructed on a site adjacent to the old school's building and opened its doors in September.

However, Maguire said the school wasn't equipped with smoke alarms, functioning security cameras or a sprinkler system.

He told CityNews Halifax that instead, the HRCE and the Department of Education hired security guards or "fire watch" to search for potential fires and then report back if any incidents occurred.

"If I said tomorrow that, 'The guy or woman down the street wants to put a pool in their yard and instead of having a fence they're going to have somebody stand there and watch,' it wouldn't pass standard," Maguire said. "The piece of legislation, unfortunately, it didn't go through. But I'm hoping in the next legislative session that the Premier and his crew will take a look at it."

Maguire said there wasn't much that was achieved this past legislative session besides a handful of bills. Moreover, he said the sitting government wanted to get "in and out quickly" because they didn't want to deal with too many questions.

He added that the session was only three weeks long and that the cabinet was mostly focused on the summer election.

"I think all governments look at it ... as a chance to get in and get their agenda through and get out," he said. "I think all political parties in the past have used that as a tool of having shortened sessions.

"Being on this side now, on the opposition side, I made a promise to myself that I was going to be the opposition that I wish we (the Liberal Party) would've had when we were in government — I'm not going to be oppositional just to be oppositional."

CBC News reported on Nov. 3 that a spokesperson from the Department of Education said the school would not have been allowed to open if it was deemed unsafe.

Spokesperson Jenna MacQueen said security cameras were wired and commissioned after the school opened, adding that interior cameras were already in place and exterior cameras were expected to be functioning in the coming weeks.

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education also said it's not uncommon for work to continue beyond the start of the school year.

But Maguire said the school should not have opened at the beginning of the school year if it wasn't completely ready.

"We know that public buildings can't open without at least fire alarms and sprinkler alarms," Maguire said. "So to me, it was a bit troubling that a school with 900 children would open without it."

Maguire said the responses he's received from the HRCE and the Department of Education indicate that the school met all of the appropriate standards and it passed inspection.

However, he said he'd argue that a lack of security cameras and a sprinkler system creates an opening for danger.

"Especially when it comes to the sprinkler system, you can't replace a sprinkler system with a few people walking around the school," he said. "It may have passed the 'standards,' but to me, all that means is that those standards need to be revised."

"It's mind-boggling."


Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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