EDMONTON — Enrolment pressures at several Edmonton elementary schools, particularly on the ever-expanding southside of the city, have school boards scrambling to figure out how to handle the pressure.
But while the issue is immediate at the elementary level, the pressure has led some to wonder what’s going to happen when all of those kids hit high school.
“A question about the future is a very good one. If we could all predict it, we’d be great,” Gane Olsen, principal of J. Percy Page, said.
With 1,200 students this year, J. Percy Page High School is at 100 per cent capacity. Enrolment numbers are up this year over last, and with it being the feeder high school for many elementary schools – including the over-crowded Michael Strembitsky School – Olsen foresees a busy future for the school.
“There will be more students wanting to come in to the school and we’re eventually going to get to the point where we’re just full every period [with] full classrooms,” Olsen said. “I do think with the growth of the city there’s going to be a significant amount of pressure on J. Percy Page as a school.”
Janine Barr’s son is in kindergarten at Michael Strembitsky. She also has a two-year-old daughter at home. Because of the growth pressures at Michal Strembitsky, her younger child will end up at a different school than her son.
Barr hopes planning will be in place by the time her kids hit high school so she won’t have to deal with the same situation again in a few years.
“I think they need to think ahead,” she said.
“I’m hoping in the next nine years something might be in the neighbourhood.”
While the problem may be a decade away, Edmonton Public Schools says it’s time to start the conversation now around what should be done to try to mitigate overcrowding at the high school level.
“We anticipate there will be an increase, it’s where that increase is and exactly the extent of that increase we have to work with community to understand and plan for,” Chris Wright, managing director of infrastructure with Edmonton Public Schools, said.
School officials say they have set aside land for new high schools in locations across the city, but none of these potential sites have been put to capital plans. Building new high schools also takes a lot longer than elementary schools because they’re more expensive and complicated to get done.
Edmonton Public has set up several information sessions to hear from parents about what they hope for their children’s future. The meetings will discuss possible short and long-term solutions, as well as outline the demographic in certain Edmonton neighbourhoods.
“What we’ll talk about is patterns and we’ll talk about a trajectory that we see in our younger grade enrolment and what that could mean when it hits high school and how to best plan for that,” Wright said.
“We know that we have some really robust enrolments in certain parts of our town right now at the K-2 level and the younger grades. We know that within a number of years those kids will be graduating up into our high school grades and we want to be sure that we’re ready.”
A public meeting was already held at J. Percy Page. Lillian Osborne School is hosting a meeting Thursday night at 7 p.m. Two other meetings have been scheduled at Jasper Place School and Queen Elizabeth School. For more information, visit the Edmonton Public Schools’ website.
With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News.
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