Lethbridge school officials were hit with a setback this week in their bid to address a need for more classroom space.
On Friday, Alberta’s UCP government announced funding for 25 new school projects across the province, which included 15 new schools, six replacements and four modernizations worth $397 million.
Lethbridge and its surrounding communities were left off that list.
In recent months, the Lethbridge School Division has spoken publicly about the need for more classroom space.
In fact, one of its newest schools, Coalbanks Elementary, is already bursting at the seems after just two years.
It opened in the fall of 2017 with 430 students. This year that number has risen to 612.
On Oct. 25, Coalbanks received delivery of its 12th and 13th portable units to address its growing enrolment.
“The list doesn’t have a school south of Calgary,” said the school division’s superintendent Cheryl Gilmore, while addressing Travis Toews, Alberta’s finance minister, who was speaking at an event hosted by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
Toews did not have an immediate answer for Gilmore in the division’s bid to address enrolment pressures; only committing to take her comments back to the education minister, and that the government will be rolling out a new budget in February.
He said enrolment pressures will remain part of the ongoing criteria for new school projects.
“I have great confidence that our education minister is going to, as she works with all of those in the education realm across the province, be able to prioritize well and ensure that we’re building schools, adding capacity where enrollment growth is in fact occurring,” Toews said.
“Lethbridge School Division will continue to advocate for the construction of new elementary schools on the west side of Lethbridge to help alleviate the enrolment pressures the division is experiencing,” the division said in a statement Friday.
“A new elementary school in the Gary Station area, and an elementary school located in the southern portion of the west side, continue to be the division’s first and second priorities in terms of new school construction requests.”
Lethbridge’s lone UCP MLA says he understands the pressure schools in the city are under and will continue to advocate on their behalf.
“I know first hand the challenges they face,” said Nathan Neudorf, the MLA for Lethbridge-East.
“So again just making sure that voice is heard, making sure I spend time with the minister of education so that Lethbridge is represented and put fairly on that priority list.”
But whether Lethbridge makes that priority list or not is still in question.