New website helps Albertans track progress of new schools

WATCH ABOVE: The provincial government has launched a new website to help Albertans track the progress of school projects. Doug Vaessen explains.

CALGARY – The provincial government has launched a new website to help Albertans track the progress of school projects in their community, but critics say it’s no guarantee the schools will be built on time.

The website offers an interactive map which shows the building of new schools throughout the province, as well as modernization projects. Albertans can click the map to check the progress made at each site.

WATCH: The government launched a new website Tuesday so that people can track the status of 234 school projects. Emily Mertz has more.

“The new website enables Albertans to monitor school project status in their neighbourhoods,” said Minister of Infrastructure Manmeet Bhullar.

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READ MORE: Alberta premier announces ‘largest ever’ school construction project 

The Alberta government has committed to a three-phase project to complete more than 230 school projects across the province, creating about 78,000 new student spaces.

Premier Jim Prentice announced Phase 3 of the project in October of 2014, committing to build 55 new schools in the province and to modernize 20 more. Two more schools were added later.  It was described as the “largest ever” school construction project. Fifteen of the new schools were planned for Edmonton, 12 for Calgary.

On Tuesday, the government said an investment of $2 billion would ensure construction of the Phase 3 projects is completed. The province is promising a total of 56 new schools or additions and 21 modernizations or replacements of existing schools will be completed by 2018.

The ministry of infrastructure says 32 school projects from Phase 1 (announced in 2011) and one school project from Phase 2 (announced in 2013) have opened to students.

READ MORE: Alberta Education promises more new schools 

The Alberta Liberals say the “PC government’s pre-election school funding announcements are not a guarantee new schools will be built on time.”

“Having schools completed with their doors open by next year is what Albertans were promised, and this is clearly not going to be the case,” said leader David Swann.

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The party said in 2012, the government promised to build 50 new schools and modernize 70 more by 2016 and that Prentice added 56 more new schools and 21 more modernizations by 2018.

“The PCs are just managing to follow through on the Stelmach-era projects,” said Liberal education critic Kent Hehr. “Claiming any success for them as a result of this new administration is simply dishonest.” He added that none of the newly-announced projects are close to having shovels in the ground.

The minister said it takes time for schools to be built, but admits he wants to streamline the process.

“The planning and permitting process for building new schools has to be condensed,” said Bhullar on March 9.

The opposition criticized the province for spending a lot of time announcing school projects but not seeing them through to completion in a timely fashion.

“They stalled for these 50 schools over the last three years, and suddenly they’re running into a lot of problems,” said NDP education critic David Eggen.

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