30 new schools needed in next 15 years for student population boom: Report

Click to play video: 'EPSB bracing for student growth by 2029' EPSB bracing for student growth by 2029
WATCH ABOVE: A report prepared for the Edmonton Public School Board shows student enrolment will rise over the next 15 years and by 2029, there could be up to 36,000 more students in the system. Julia Wong reports on what the school board and the province are doing to prepare – Jun 15, 2016

A report prepared for the Edmonton Public School Board shows there could be up to 36,000 more students in the city’s public schools by 2029.

The demographics-based report looks at school-aged children between the ages of five and 17. A citywide forecast for student enrolment shows a low forecast of 1.5 per cent growth would equate to 29,681 additional students and a high forecast of 1.7 per cent growth would see 36,610 additional  students.

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According to the report, most of the growth is projected to happen in developing areas around the Anthony Henday and account for nearly 90 per cent of all new student growth. Based on the higher-end of growth projection figures, the number of school-aged children is expected to increase 91.1 per cent or by 30,003 students.

The number of students is forecast to increase 5.2 per cent in the core areas and 9.6 per cent in mature areas outside the core that were developed before 1970. Established areas that were developed within the Anthony Henday are projected to see a decrease of 8.2 per cent.

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Board Chair Michael Janz said the report revealed the board needs to continue advocating for new schools outside the Henday and continue investing in mature communities.

Janz said the reason for growth in the city’s new communities could be attributed to affordability and higher supply of housing.

“Without a dramatic increase of supply of infill that’s much more affordable and family friendly, it’s going to be difficult to attract more families back to our city core,” he said.

“As a board, we need to make sure we have school sites available for those kids [in the developing areas].”

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Superintendent Darrel Robertson said the school board will be monitoring growth and working diligently on a capital plan to submit to the province.

“That really prioritizes for our board the projects we need to embark on and get funding so we meet the needs of all our kids,” he said.

Robertson said the board has between 30 and 35 projects on its current capital plan. He shoots down the possibility of shuttling children from outside the Henday to schools in mature and established neighbourhoods.

“It really is unrealistic. It’s not family friendly. There are contracts, bus drivers to hire and equipment to keep on the road. There is a cost to transportation and parents share in that cost when they’re riding the yellow bus,” he said.

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When asked how the ministry of education plans to respond to the growth, Education Minister David Eggen said capital takes a number of years to build up.

“We believe it’s important to have that long-term planning in place,” he said.

Eggen, Robertson, and Janz were on hand Wednesday for the groundbreaking for the new Ivor Dent School, which will open in 2017. The new school will replace three others in the neighbourhood and comes with a price tag of $25 million.

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Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous, who is MLA for the area, said he is ecstatic to see the new K-9 school, which he said has been a long time coming.

“It’s great to see new schools in mature neighbourhoods. It means families don’t have to move to the outskirts of the city to get a new school and that mature neighbourhoods can have a brand new school for our kids,” he said.

There are no plans to demolish the three other schools. Janz said the facilities could be used for service centres, non-profit space or health space.

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After school openings this year and next year, the school board will have nine schools in the core, 110 schools in mature neighbourhoods, 66 schools in established neighbourhoods and 25 in developing neighbourhoods.

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