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5 new schools, 1 modernization announced for Edmonton

Click to play video 'Alberta reveals which communities will have schools built & renovated' Alberta reveals which communities will have schools built & renovated
WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta government released its plan for 26 new, modernized and replacement schools across the province. The plan includes five new schools for Edmonton and one modernization. Tom Vernon has the details. – Mar 21, 2017

Three new schools will be built in Edmonton, two will be replaced and one will be modernized, the province announced Tuesday morning.

The school projects follow last Thursday’s provincial budget, which put $500 million towards new and updated schools across Alberta.

The province announced the locations of 26 projects Tuesday, including the six in Edmonton.

READ MORE: What’s in the 2017 Alberta budget for Edmonton?

The three new schools include a public junior high in The Meadows in the city’s southeast, a public elementary in the Pilot Sound neighbourhood of northeast Edmonton and a Catholic elementary in Ellerslie.

The province said the elementary school in Ellerslie has only been approved for design dollars, with full construction funding expected “later.” The public school board said the school would be located in the area of Orchards Boulevard SW and 30 Avenue SW.

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École Joseph Moreau and Highlands Junior High will be replaced. The Edmonton Public School Board said work will be done to ensure the façade of the Highlands school building is maintained.

Ben Calf Robe in the city’s northeast is on the list for modernization.

Several school modernizations are outlined in the province’s plan. Education Minister David Eggen said modernizations are just as effective as building brand new schools.

“Sometimes they are the more complicated projects to undertake because of course you have students in the site while the renovations are taking place,” he said. “But it is – in the estimation of our builders and the contractors – the best, most efficient, cost-efficient way to build capacity.”

READ MORE: 30 new schools needed in next 15 years for student population boom: report

Premier Rachel Notley said the schools will address enrolment pressures across the province.

“Our government is working to make life better for Albertans and part of that is building schools for our growing number of students,” Notley said in a media release. “We will also protect and improve education by providing a much-needed facelift to some of our aging facilities.”

While it’s welcome news to Edmonton Catholic Schools, board chair Laura Thibert said more schools are needed to keep up with enrolment.

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“It’s not enough by any means,” she said. “We are short on the southeast, southwest, north, west. All over. All new areas.”

It’s a concern shared by the Edmonton Public School Board.

“We still need more schools. The population is growing, especially on the outskirts of the Anthony Henday,” board chair Michelle Draper said.

Draper also expressed concerns over a lack of new high schools in the province’s announcement.

“It’s a pressing need. These kids are going through elementary, junior high and they’re getting ready for high school and we want to make sure there’s enough space for them. So high school for sure, will continue to be on our list of advocacy issues as we work with the provincial government.”

READ MORE: Edmonton public high schools will be overcrowded by 2021: report

Edmonton Riverbend MP Matt Jeneroux said the lack of a new high school in the city’s southwest is a “complete oversight by the provincial government.”

“It’s too bad that they couldn’t look at where the massive amount of growth is happening, and that’s in southwest Edmonton,” Jeneroux told 630 CHED.

“It’s a lot of young families. It doesn’t take rocket science to know that these families grow up and kids get older,” he continued. “The schools that are built now, the elementaries and junior highs are good, but these kids are getting older and they’re going to need a high school.

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“That’s what we as parents have been championing for for a long time out there and today was hopefully a day that that would be announced. But again, it’s disappointing this provincial government decided not to take our area seriously.”

Beyond the city limits, Wye School in Sherwood Park will be replaced and Woodhaven Junior High in Spruce Grove is up for modernization. Woodhaven will see its capacity increased by 300 students.

“Parkland School Division is extremely excited and most appreciative of the announced modernization of Woodhaven Middle School. This project reflects the government’s commitment to capital projects to support the education of Alberta’s most valued resource, our children,” said Eric Cameron, board chair of the Parkland School Division.

Calgary is getting four new schools and one modernization.

Construction on the school projects is scheduled to start in 2018, with opening dates beginning in 2021. The province said the projects will create more than 6,000 jobs across Alberta.