It's official - come September, Portage College will no longer be providing programming at its Bonnyville campus.
Almost 18 months on from the decision to dramatically reduce services at its Centennial Centre campus, Portage last week essentially hammered the final nail in the coffin of post-secondary programming in Bonnyville.
“Due to extensive cuts in the 2015-16 Alberta provincial budget, we regret to inform that Portage College will be vacating all leased space in Bonnyville, by September 30, 2015,” said Tracy Boyde, the institution's Vice President of Infrastructure and IT, in a short letter to C2 CAO Gary Krawchuk.
Constructed back in 2007, the Centennial Centre was built with the purpose of providing a platform for local youth to pursue post-secondary education. In shutting down its services less than eight years into what many expected to be a lengthy relationship with the C2, Portage has well and truly pulled that platform away, shocking several local dignitaries in the process.
“We were absolutely stunned when we heard,” said Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski. “The Centennial Centre was built to house education as a component of the entire facility. Our education programming, as a result of decisions made by the college, has always had somewhat of a question mark over it, but we didn't (expect this).”
Despite essentially owning and running the Centennial Centre along with the MD of Bonnyville, Sobolewski said Portage made “no contact whatsoever” with either municipality regarding their plans.
“We found out about this decision indirectly through the letter that was sent to Gary Krawchuk at the C2, we weren't even notified,” Sobolewski said. “I find it astounding (that the college would move forward with such a decision) without contacting (either the Town of MD). For any of our partnerships, we would never even consider not notifying somebody of our intentions or considerations, particularly for something as important as this.”
Since scaling back its services in 2013, Portage College has had a minimal presence in the community, offering only a few welding and engineering classes.
Speaking to the Nouvelle last week, MD of Bonnyville Reeve Ed Rondeau said it was a shame to see the institution, which has offered programming in Bonnyville since 1995, leaving the community.
“It's a real blow to the community, that's for sure,” Rondeau said. “Right now they're offering a few journeymen programs that I know people in the area have been taking advantage of, to lose that is really unfortunate.”
He added, “I think the real concern now is with Portage leaving, students are going to have to go elsewhere to pursue post-secondary education. I really hope that as a community we can come up with a way to do something. We have a fantastic facility (at the Centennial Centre) – I sure hope we can find a way to keep programming in this community.”
That was a sentiment shared by Sobolewski, who said the Town would make it a priority to “do its homework” and find out exactly what can be done to bring programming back to Bonnyville.
“Our number one goal is to see what we can do to get programming back into (the C2), whether than means reaching out to the province about the possibility (of bringing another institution in), I don't know,” Sobolewski said. “What I do know is that the Town, along with the MD, is very serious in moving forward to ensure we have accredited programming running out of that facility.”
Despite several attempts over the course of the week, Portage College could not be reached for an official comment.