The Alberta government announced almost $393 million for 20 school projects across the province as part of its 2018 budget.
Edmonton school projects
On Friday, the province announced the list of new and modernized projects, which includes three in Edmonton.
“These projects are a mix of new schools in fast-growing urban centres, replacement schools to revitalize communities and to provide that update infrastructure and modernizations to keep students and spaces to meet their learning needs,” Education Minister David Eggen said.
In Edmonton, a new Francophone K-6 school on the northeast end, École À la Découverte, and a new K-9 school in the southwest community of Heritage Valley will be built, while a spokesperson for the Edmonton Public School Board said four schools in the Westlawn area will be replaced with two new buildings.
READ MORE: What’s in the Alberta budget for Edmonton
Eggen said providing École À la Découverte students a permanent school will be a boost for Edmonton’s francophone community.
“This school has been moved in three different buildings in the past 10 years,” Eggen said.
“Giving it a permanent new home will allow the francophone community to build stronger bonds with families and educators and to ensure the unique cultural and linguistic heritages will continue on for many future generations.”
Edmonton Public Schools reacts to school funding announcements
The chair of the Edmonton Public School Board said she was “delighted” with Friday’s announcements even though she will continue to push for more new schools.
“The province had to make some tough decisions, we’re going to continue advocating for that high school but we are today celebrating the three announcements.”
Draper was pleased with the Westlawn modernization announcement.
“That’s really exciting because there’s four schools in the Westlawn area that absolutely need modernization, and they’re just to the point where it makes great sense.”
Draper added the EPSB will continue to push for a new high school in The Meadows, but the district will make do with what it has in the meantime.
“The reality is, by 2022-23, we’re going to have a shortage of space. We’re looking for alternatives,” she said. “There’s lots of ways that we’re going to create opportunities for students to take online learning, maybe summer school, night school, work with start times.
“The reality is, we do need a second announcement of a high school. So we’ll continue to work as a board on advocating for that.”
Edmonton-area school projects
Four schools in communities surrounding Edmonton are also on the list of projects.
Upgrades will be done at Sherwood Park’s Ecole Pere Kenneth Kearns Catholic school, St. Albert’s Paul Kane High School, Stony Plain’s Central School and Beaumont’s École Secondaire Beaumont Composite High School.
“These new schools are backstops to continue funding enrolment growth which will add 600 teachers and 300 new support workers to Alberta’s classrooms,” Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci said.
Watch Below: $400M allocated for new schools in 2018 Alberta budget
In Grande Prairie, a new K-9 school named O’Brien Lake West will be constructed.
Also, Father Lacombe Catholic School in Lacombe will be modernized.
Construction on the schools could start as early as next year, according to the province.
“Our aim is to have these schools built quickly, built on budget and built to meet the needs of students, families, communities that will use them for many decades in the future,” Eggen said.
Catholic school board disappointed
Edmonton Catholic Schools said it was disappointed to hear a new Catholic school was not on the province’s list. Board chair Terry Harris said the district thought it would have at least one, if not two, projects on the list.
“We were surprised, very concerned, very disappointed,” Harris said, adding enrolment has increased by 30 per cent over the last 10 years.
“As a percentage of our growth, we’ve received the fewest number of additional student spaces. I think the deficiency is somewhere in the area of about 2,500 student spaces – the equivalent of about three to four schools.
“We’re the only metro board to receive no new spaces … That’s a grave concern for us.”
Harris said the board’s top three priorities were a new school in the Keswick neighbourhood in the southwest, a high school completion centre in Lewis Farms and a new high school in Heritage Valley.
“Our students are packed in non-classroom spaces,” Harris said. “These spaces include libraries, hallways, gymnasiums.
“Our students deserve appropriate spaces for their learning experience.”
Harris said the board has reached out to the education minister to set up a meeting to discuss the “desperate need” for new student spaces.
READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2018 met with mixed reaction
Alberta Teachers’ Association weighs in
Alberta’s teachers’ union said the budget “will not do enough to address concerns about class size, undersupported special needs and growing costs.”
“Albertans will appreciate the government’s commitment to funding enrolment growth, building new schools and tackling student hunger,” Alberta Teachers’ Association president Greg Jeffrey said in an emailed statement.
“But this budget does not do enough to help teachers deal with large class sizes or support students with special learning needs. Base grants have only received one small increase in seven years, and school boards are struggling to keep up with inflationary pressure.”
With files from Caley Ramsay and Phil Heidenreich, Global News.