Calgary and its surrounding communities will be getting six new schools, part of the Alberta government’s announcement to fund 25 education-related capital projects across the province.
A new public elementary school and a new public middle school will be going into the Auburn Bay neighbourhood. North Calgary will also be getting a much-needed public high school.
Cochrane will be getting a new Catholic K-9 school. Langdon is getting funding for designing a new high school. Carstairs Elementary School is getting an addition and the Morrin School will be replaced.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, a former school board member who has overseen school construction, said the new high schools should be able to open their doors in relatively short order.
“Typically, on any high school build, from the time it goes to design to full build completion is anywhere from a year and a half to three years, on the outset,” LaGrange said.
Funding for the 25 schools is projected at $397 million over five years. The new funding comes as part of the UCP’s 2019 budget, released on Oct. 28. The Kenney government also extended its commitment to $1.4 billion for 60 previously-approved education infrastructure projects.
Calgary Board of Education chair Marilyn Dennis said the north Calgary high school will help with over-enrolled high schools in the public school division.
“The north Calgary high school is a critical piece of infrastructure for us,” Dennis said. “We have enrollment pressures at the high school level and this new build will help to alleviate those.”
“Our growing community in Auburn Bay will see an opportunity to have K-9 students also attending school without having to venture out of their community,” Dennis added.
“Our kids that use the public system have been bussing to Crescent Heights, which is a long time — it takes a long time to get there,” Kasia Gajewska, an advocate for the high school, told Global News.
“For the kids, they are not able to participate in extracurricular activities or work. Sometimes it gets into work time — and as we know a lot of high school students work — just because of the commute times,” Gajewska added.
But the Calgary Catholic School District, whose jurisdiction includes Cochrane and Airdrie, was left disappointed by Friday’s announcement from the province.
“Unfortunately, the capital announcement today does nothing to eliminate (our) pressures from growth,” Linda Wellman, Calgary Catholic’s trustee vice-chair, said Friday.
Wellman said the new K-9 school in Cochrane will be replacing an existing school whose lease is coming due.
Wellman also said the provincial government didn’t address the school district’s need for more high school seats in Airdrie. Instead, Calgary Catholic is planning on constructing an addition onto the existing St. Martin de Porres High School.
Enrolment is expected to go from 104 per cent to 120 per cent in 2023 at St. Martin de Porres.
“We have nowhere to bring those students,” Wellman said. “It would be unprecedented to bus students from one city to another.”
But Wellman said she had been reassured by the education minister that her school district’s needs and concerns have been heard, “and I do believe it will be addressed.”
READ MORE: New elementary school opens in Airdrie
LaGrange reiterated the Kenney government’s commitment to fund education, saying “we are going to continue to build schools where they are needed.”
“Obviously we can’t do it all in one budget, but this is an investment that we are going to continue to make on a year-to-year basis.”
Barbara Silva, public education advocate with Support Our Students Alberta, was critical of the announcement to build new schools, saying the funding will only cover the structures.
“This funding does nothing to fill those schools with books, desks, technology, staffing, teachers, playgrounds, and resources,” Silva said in a statement.
“Obviously teachers and administrators will be running those new schools as they always do,” LaGrange said, pointing to CBE’s $1.2 billion budget for roughly 125,000 students.
LaGrange did not commit to hiring new teachers and administrative staff for the new schools.
“Those are decisions that are made by local school divisions — local school authorities — and they will make those decisions in the best interest of their schools and of their children,” LaGrange said.