Alberta government announces funding for 13 school projects in Edmonton. Here’s where they are.

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Alberta government announces funding for 13 school projects in Edmonton
The Alberta budget included money for new schools and upgrades, and 13 of the projects that will receive funding are in Edmonton. Morgan Black has the details. – Mar 1, 2024

One day after the provincial government unveiled its 2024 budget, Premier Danielle Smith held a news conference in Calgary to announce what Alberta school projects will receive funding as population growth continues to drive the need for more spaces for students.

“Today is a great day,” Smith told reporters Friday at Saint Mary’s High School in Calgary. “We are investing in a bright future for our children with new and modernized schools and enhanced learning supports for students of all abilities.”

Thirteen of the school projects that will receive funding, according to the latest budget, are in Edmonton.

Of the Edmonton projects receiving full construction funding, four will be for the Edmonton Catholic School Division:

-a new K-9 school in Crystallina Nera;

-a new K-9 school in Heritage Valley/Cavanagh;

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-a new K-9 school in Hays Ridge;

-a K-9 “solution” in Rundle.

One Edmonton Public Schools project received full construction funding: a new grade 7-12 school in Glenridding Heights.

Julie Kusiek, the chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, was there for Friday’s announcement and said the Glenridding Heights school is welcome news for “an area of the city that desperately needs” the student spaces.

“Thank you to the premier and to the ministers for recognizing our story of growth,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government announces funding for 13 school projects in Edmonton'
Alberta government announces funding for 13 school projects in Edmonton

Two ECSD schools received design funding in the 2024 budget: a new K-9 school in Laurel and a new K-9 school in River’s Edge.

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Three EPSB schools received design funding: a new K-6 school in Glenridding Heights, a new K-6 school in Rosenthal and a new 7-9 school in McConachie.

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Two EPSB school projects also received planning funding: the replacement of Delton School (K-6) and the replacement of Spruce Avenue School (7-9).

Edmonton Conseil scolaire Centre-Nord also received planning funding for a new 7-12 school.

“Today’s announcement acknowledges some of the growth pressures we are facing as a division,” Kusiek said.

Kusiek spoke about the ongoing challenges her school division is facing when it comes to its growing number of students, some of whom have increasingly complex needs, and also the challenge of modernizing older schools in mature neighbourhoods.

She said more than 5,000 additional students are served by Edmonton Public Schools each year, and that the school division is expecting an increase of 60,000 students over 10 years. She added the EPSB believes it will need 50 new schools to accommodate that growth over the next decade.

“The demand for new schools as well as modernizations is clear,” Kusiek said.

She gave specific examples of challenges public schools are facing and noted that she recently visited a high school on Edmonton’s south side that is operating at 100 per cent capacity.

“Prospective students who live in the surrounding neighbourhoods enter into a lottery just to see if they can get in. For those who do not make it through the lottery process, we bus to other schools that are much further away,” Kusiek said.

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“So at this school, here’s what I saw: a food lab doubling as a science lab. Can you imagine? I wouldn’t want to be the class that is tasked with solving complex scientific equations while the lingering smell of chocolate chip cookies from the food class just prior.

“I also saw a bustling library with students reading books while other students were working on construction projects with cordless drills in another corner of the same library. And the staff room, it’s become a space where students gather for classes while teachers eat their lunches in the hallways. None of this is ideal, but it’s what we do to make things work as we grow.”

She also spoke of an older school in Edmonton that is in need of modernization, noting that it has “no reasonable option to retrofit ramps or a lift.”

“The result: a space that is inaccessible for students, staff and families with mobility challenges.”

On Thursday, the Alberta government delivered a budget that tries to limit spending to keep in line with limited growth in revenue.

Smith called the budget and how it addresses needs faced by school divisions “a responsible plan for our growing province.”

Finance Minister Nate Horner spoke to Global News about his budget on Thursday after he unveiled it to the province. He said while it shows spending restraint, it is not an austerity budget and that his government gave particular consideration to funding needs in education and health.

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“I think if you look at the budget, that had an overall increase to the operational line of 3.9 per cent, what I think is really key is the lines in health and education — both at 4.4 per cent,” Horner said. “We took a lot of time and were very thoughtful about the priorities of Albertans in both health and education.

In total, the budget allocates $2.1 billion over three years to building and modernizing schools across the province.

If passed, the budget would advance 43 priority school projects, including 28 new schools, 10 replacement schools and five modernizations.

“When complete, these projects will create about 35,000 new and modernized spaces for Alberta students to learn, grow, and meet their full potential,” the government said in a news release.

Amanda Chapman, the Opposition’s education critic, issued a statement after the school projects were announced and said the plans “will not meet Alberta’s high demand for learning spaces.”

“With record enrolment of 28,000 new students this year in Alberta, the UCP’s budget will not address overcrowding in schools because they are only building one-third of what is needed,” she said.

“Our population is exploding, the diverse needs of students is already a crisis in our classrooms and all kids need safe spaces in our schools, especially as they arrive from war-torn regions of the globe. There is nothing in this budget to address these challenges right now.”

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Click to play video: 'Alberta finance minister delves into 2024 budget'
Alberta finance minister delves into 2024 budget

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