A new high school is being built in southwest Edmonton, which the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) says is at the top of the its priority list.
The school will be built just west of James Mowatt Trail and north of 35 Avenue SW and will serve students in neighbourhoods west of Calgary Trail/QEII and south of Anthony Henday Drive, in what is known as the Heritage Valley area.
The school will have space for up to 1,800 students and construction will begin in late 2019 or early 2020 when design work is complete. That’s a capacity of 600 fewer students than the board had hoped for when it released its top priorities earlier this year.
“This one is going to alleviate the crunch, but soon after we’ll need to have another high school,” EPSB chair Michelle Draper said. “So we are moving that up on our capital plan.”
Draper said the public board has opened 11 new schools this year, but all of them were elementary or junior high.
“Our kids are growing up and there are more kids coming. So the elementary system — we’re managing that alright — but we do need more in the high school realm.”
The Heritage Valley school will have a greater capacity than the next-closest high school — Lillian Osborne in the Terwillegar area, which this year has nearly 1,400 students — but fewer than the other southwest Edmonton high school — Harry Ainlay School on 111 Street and 43 Avenue, which has nearly 2,600 students. (Edmonton Catholic Schools also has two senior high schools in the same areas as those public schools.)
Earlier this year, the EPSB unveiled its top three priorities and said high schools are at the top of the list. The board said in less than five years, the overcrowding issue currently plaguing some of Edmonton’s elementary and junior highs would spread to the city’s high schools if more space wasn’t opened up.
It’s expected there will be more students than space by the 2021/22 school year and the EPSB said the only real solution is more class space. High schools take longer to build because they’re more expensive and complicated, so the board said ideally, the ball needed to get rolling this year in order to be ready for the oncoming wave of students.
Education minister David Eggen said that’s why the southwest school announcement was made outside of the regular budget cycle.
“So we can get started right away on planning and site readiness. The site is pretty much ready,” Eggen said Friday. “I think we opened 53 schools here in the fall — we’re getting really good at timing these things, and we realize that watching that bubble of kids move forward and the need of the high school, we need to start right now so those two things meet together.”
The highest demand for new spaces is on the south side — where affordable, family friendly neighbourhoods have grown rapidly in both the southwest and southeast.
The board’s priority is to add space for an additional 6,600 students. To do that, it wants to build two $68-million high schools with space for 2,400 high schoolers: one in the southeast and one in the southwest.
An EPSB map indicates both of the high schools would be south of Ellerslie Road, near the Walker and Heritage Valley areas. As part of its three-year plan for proposed new construction and replacements, the southwest high school fell under the priorities for Year 1.
Details of the new high school were unveiled Friday morning at an elementary in the southwest Edmonton area where it will be built.
Premier Rachel Notley and Eggen were joined by Draper and Thomas Dang, MLA for Edmonton—South West.
Heritage Valley area neighbourhoods include:
- Blackmud Creek
- Graydon Hill
- Hays Ridge
- Heritage Valley
- Heritage Valley Town Centre
The province said in a news release students from other south Edmonton communities — including Ambleside, Windermere and Summerside — may also benefit from the new high school.
WATCH: The “huge growth pressure” at Edmonton elementary schools will grow into a high school boom in a few years. Michelle Draper, board chair of Edmonton Public Schools, shares the district’s plan.