Mile 108 portable donation denied

$25,000 Block family offer fizzles out over policy

A $25,000 donation toward the cost to replace a portable classroom at Mile 108 Elementary School has been turned down by School District #27 (SD27) due to a policy conflict.

The gift was offered by Laura and Henry Block who founded the 108 Mile Ranch subdivision when Henry was a partner in the local real estate giant Block Brothers.

Laura Block says the $25,000 was to help replace the portable recently removed from the school.

“We developed the 108, so there is always sort of a family feeling, and we also have family there. [Mile 108 Elementary teacher] Monique Corno is my niece – my sister’s daughter. My husband and I are very interested in staying connected to what is happening both in their family, and also at the 108.”


School board stance

SD27 superintendent Mark Thiessen says Board Policy 3280 (Donations – Equipment And Facilities) states all items donated become the property of the School District, which then becomes solely responsible for repairing and maintaining all donated items.

It also stipulates that no restrictions, expressed or implied, may be made by the donor as a condition of providing the gift, he adds.

“The potential donor in this case placed restrictions on the donation, which was in opposition to this policy,” he says.

The policy also requires that donations comply with school board’s plans for the development of its facilities, he notes, which include a guiding principle of sound and efficient fiscal management.

“For a couple of different reasons, the district did not feel that this donation offer fit within the board’s mid-range and long-range plans.”


Teacher’s troubles

Corno says since the loss of the building – which housed her art class, as well as school band and First Nations culture classes – her students have lost instructional time waiting while she pushes a trolley of art supplies from class to class.

“Problems have revealed themselves that [imply] maybe, when they made the initial decision to take the portable away, they weren’t thinking of the details.”

These range from finding places for the artwork to dry to the loss of the former “co-operative space” with large work tables and inspirational art hung up for students, she explains.

Logistics are also proving to be “quite difficult” as she often can’t make it from one class to the next on time, Corno says. Along with getting all the easels and art supplies set up before the students can begin, and then cleaned up and put away before the next teacher needs the classroom, this can cut up to 20 minutes from a single class.

“I feel that the kids are losing out … every day we are battling issues that have come up with the loss of that space. I have had to alter the program I deliver.”


All said and done

Block adds she had a “good discussion” with Thiessen, and while its decision is disappointing, she and Henry have “no problem” with the district’s refusal.

“It was something we have a real interest in, but there were no personalities involved, it was just strictly business.”

Thiessen notes the generous nature and intent of the offer is recognized.

“We were very pleased with the respectful dialogue we carried out with the potential donor and acknowledge that the donor had every intention of benefiting our students. But, due to the reasons I have stated, School District 27 did not accept the offer in accordance with our donations policy.”

A lot of volunteer work went into bringing the previous portable “up to snuff,” Block notes, but she and her husband accept the decision without rancour.

“…the reasons why [Thiessen and the board] made the decision to have to use the portable is not our concern. We wanted to make sure the 108 school is running with as much efficiency as it was at the beginning of the year — to see if we could get it back to where it was.”

Block says a stipulation was that the portable installation would be done this school year, to bring the 108 School back to what it was at the term’s beginning.

She adds the issue is all about the children, and what is best for them.

“We love the school, and we love the 108.”