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Opening dates of several Edmonton schools pushed back

WATCH ABOVE: Parents and students waiting for new schools to open next September could be waiting even longer. Kendra Slugoski explains.

EDMONTON — It appears as though only one of the four Catholic schools originally scheduled to open September 2016 will be ready for the start of school next fall.

The Edmonton Catholic District was expecting four new schools to be open by September 2016: Bishop David Motiuk (in Lewis Farms), St. John XXIII (in Windermere), Father Michael Mireau (in Summerside) and Christ the King (in McConachie). Now, the district has been told only St. John XXIII Elementary/Junior High School will be done on time.

However, a replacement school project originally set to be completed by December 2016, St. Brendan, may open ahead of schedule in September.

“The information we have from our contractors and from the province right now is that the replacement school and St. John XXIII will be open for September 2016,” said Borris Radyo, the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Planning with Edmonton Catholic.

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The government of Alberta’s website that tracks the school construction projects and their progress now lists December 2016 as the estimated completion date for the other schools.

A spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure confirmed Tuesday there were delays.

The province said methane was found on the site where Michael Phair School and Bishop David Motiuk School are planned. Those schools may not be ready until September 2017. The province said Father Michael Mireau School would also likely be delayed until December 2016. It said Christ the King is being managed by the Catholic District, so it couldn’t confirm the length of that delay.

The government is working on removing the methane gas and make the sites safe.

All other school projects are on track.

In a statement, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen said:

“Let me confirm that this government is providing stability for school construction projects across the province. When we took office, capital funding for schools was not confirmed. We have now confirmed funding for 141 new schools and 91 modernizations across Alberta. This reflects the significant commitment of this government to education and building capacity in the system.”

The site of Michael Phair School. August 25, 2015. Kendra Slugoski, Global News
The site of Michael Phair School. August 25, 2015. Kendra Slugoski, Global News
The site of Father Michael Mireau School in Summerside. August 25, 2015. Kendra Slugoski, Global News
The site of Father Michael Mireau School in Summerside. August 25, 2015. Kendra Slugoski, Global News

READ MORE: PC government’s new school promises under fire  

Radyo said the Catholic district is seeing unprecedented growth and expects about another 1,400 students next year.

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“We’re seeing growth pressures, especially in south Edmonton, but it creates a need for new schools,” explained Radyo. “Currently, we have seven new schools under construction.”

“We were hopeful that all of our schools would be open in September 2016 but it depends on the design of the school and the availability of contractors as well.”

He said delays aren’t ideal, but the district will do what it can to accommodate attendance growth until the new schools are ready. Edmonton Catholic has already adjusted attendance areas, and even moved one kindergarten class to a nearby school to accommodate growth and some schools being at capacity.

Still, Radyo believes the district is providing “excellent learning conditions” for students.

READ MORE: New website helps Albertans track progress of new schools 

According to the government’s site, 22 Edmonton schools (Catholic and public) are scheduled to open in 2016. Of those, 14 are listed as in the “construction” phase, four now have the “construction contract awarded” and four are in the “design” phase.

For Edmonton Public, Michael Phair Junior High School in Lewis Farms was originally scheduled to open September 2016 but the government website now says its completion date is December 2016.

The public school board has 14 new schools coming online in the next two years – five managed by Alberta Infrastructure and nine by Edmonton Public.

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Michael Phair School’s construction is being managed by the province.

“Any delay will have an impact on accommodating students because we are experiencing significant growth in those areas and that growth continues,” said Lorne Parker with Edmonton Public. “But we can assure our parents and the community that the students will be meeting in high-quality learning environments.”

The other three public schools scheduled to open September 2016 – Margaret Ann Armour (in Ambelside), Nellie Carlson (in MacTaggart), and Roberta MacAdams (in Blackmud Creek) – are still on schedule, according to the provincial website.