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Alberta premier announces ‘largest ever’ school construction project

WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta premier commits to building dozens of new schools in the province, including 15 in Edmonton. Kendra Slugoski has the details.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jim Prentice has committed to build 55 new schools in the province and to modernize 20 more.

Fifteen of the new schools will be in Edmonton, 12 in Calgary. A map below outlines the other locations affected by Wednesday’s announcement.

“Let’s recognize this may be the largest build-out of school infrastructure that has ever been undertaken in the country,” Prentice said.

“This all begins, really, with population growth. We are a province that has grown from roughly 3.7 million people in 2010, heading to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4.7 million people by 2020.”

A final tab is not yet known, but it’s expected to exceed $2 billion.

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“This is a very significant investment,” said Infrastructure Minister Manmeet Bhullar.

This project is part of a three-phase plan that began in 2011.

  • Phase 1 – announced in 2011, included 35 schools, of which 31 are complete;
  • Phase 2 – announced in 2013, included 50 new schools and 70 modernizations, all but five of which will be ready to accept students in 2016

Phase 3 includes $43.2 million in immediate funding to school boards, which the government believes will help accelerate the construction and modernizations. It normally takes 3 1/2 to four years to build a school, but the province hopes to streamline the process.

“This approach to building schools will get children into new classrooms sooner and protect existing schools so they are safe and comfortable for students,” said Bhullar.

A spokesperson with the Infrastructure department says most of the new schools are to be ready for students by 2017.

“Edmonton and Calgary in particular are facing a circumstance,” Prentice said, “where there will be a need to accommodate 5,000 new students each year in each city over the course of the next seven years.”

Prentice says he wants “full transparency for Albertans” on the project, and has assigned Bhullar, Education Minister Gordon Dirks, Municipal Affairs Minister Diana McQueen and Education Minister Jeff Johnson to oversee it and ensure schools open on time and on budget, as promised.

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Here’s a look at where the projects will be taking place:

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With files from The Canadian Press

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