All new Edmonton Catholic, public schools ready to open next week
With the first day of school right around the corner for students across the province, construction workers in Edmonton are still hard at work putting the finishing touches on more than a dozen new school projects set to open in September.
Edmonton Catholic Schools is opening five new schools this fall, all of which school officials say will be ready for students on Sept. 5. In the division’s 100-year history in Edmonton, this is the highest number of schools it has opened at one time.
Earlier this year, the Catholic school division estimated 2,600 students would fill the new schools. Now, officials say enrolment is already above 2,700 students, with the largest number of students heading into Kindergarten. Some of the schools are seeing upwards of 20 per cent of the student population enrolled in Kindergarten.
With an influx of young families in new neighbourhoods, the school district said these schools could not have come at a better time as they will help relieve enrolment pressures across the city.
“We had tremendous enrolment pressures throughout the perimeter of the school district,” Edmonton Catholic Schools acting superintendent Boris Radyo said.
“Some of the schools were at 120, 140 per cent capacity and those enrolments are being brought down closer to the operating capacity of the school.”
Edmonton Public Schools has 11 projects coming to completion. The board said all of the schools are ready for students to arrive next Tuesday, although some construction will continue at all nine new school sites.
“There will be some concurrent work that will be going on around them but at no time will the learning environment be compromised or the safety of students,” Edmonton Public School Board executive director Lorne Parker said.
READ MORE: Enrolment jumps in Edmonton schools
Edmonton Public Schools hasn’t opened this many new schools at one time since 1913. About 3,800 students are registered at the new schools, with space for upwards of 9,400.
Michelle Draper, board chair with Edmonton Public Schools, said the school boundaries were carefully considered “to stand the test of time.” Their hope is to avoid a situation like what’s happened at Michael Strembitsky in south Edmonton, where Kindergarten enrolment was cut off in 2016. All Kindergarten students in the attendance area attended Satoo School, about seven kilometres away, last year. The plan is to have those kids start Grade 2 at Michael Strembitsky in 2018.
“I think it’ll be a slow and easy growth,” Draper said of the new schools. “I’m confident that these schools can accommodate the students in the boundaries for years to come.”
Like the Catholic district, the concern now shifts to high school space.
“The growth pressure still exists, now mainly for high schools. That’s what we’re continuing to advocate with the province to get new high schools built,” Draper said.
Earlier this year, Edmonton public said two schools originally set to open this fall wouldn’t open until January 2018 due to construction delays. Parker said students will start the year at different schools, in their own classrooms, and move as a unit to the new schools in the new year.
An “unprecedented” total of 53 new schools are opening this September across Alberta, according to the education minister. David Eggen said with the 26 new projects announced in the spring budget earlier this year, Alberta will likely continue on a similar path in the years ahead.
“I expect that with enrolment continuing to grow – our population in certain areas is growing quite dramatically – that we will have to continue at pace. It’s not good to leave these projects delayed. The last government did that and we ended up so far behind, and overcrowded classrooms.”
Eggen said plans will likely include more high schools, as the majority of the projects have been elementary and junior high schools.
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