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Lethbridge YMCA offers classroom space to help relieve overcrowding amid COVID-19

Click to play video 'Lethbridge YMCA steps up to offer class space to help relieve overcrowding in classrooms' Lethbridge YMCA steps up to offer class space to help relieve overcrowding in classrooms
Coalbanks Elementary School in Lethbridge continues to face the pressure of accommodating more and more students without the space to do so, and the YMCA has stepped up to offer space for early learning classes. As Emily Olsen reports, local officials say it's an indication the provincial government needs to step up.

Early learning students from Coalbanks Elementary School are in a brand new classroom at the Lethbridge YMCA.

“This is a partnership that’s new for Lethbridge School Division,” Isabelle Plomp, Early Childhood Services Coordinator for Lethbridge School Division, said.

“We obviously run our programs within our school sites, but of course with Coalbanks having space constraints, we entered into discussions with YMCA last fall and were able to arrive at this today in terms of having a space for our three and four-year-olds.”

Read more: More than 80% of students in the Lethbridge School Division will learn in-classroom: parent survey results

YMCA CEO Jennifer Petracek-Kolb says it’s a natural fit.

“Our early learning and childcare program for the YMCA is right down the hallway,” she said.

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“We do have children who come to the early year’s program for the school division and then come to the childcare centre.”

Following Education Minister Adriana Lagrange’s tour of Coalbanks School last year, many local officials expected a new west-side school to be built to rectify the overcrowding. 

MLA for Lethbridge-West Shannon Phillips says the fact that action has still not been taken, to the point where community facilities are now stepping up, is a red flag. 

“At the end of the day, the kind of education system you have, especially in terms of how many sets of four walls you have for that education to occur in, is up to the provincial government,” Phillips said.

“They’ve done nothing.”

Read more: Lethbridge left off list of new school projects in Alberta

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education responded to Phillips’s comments, noting the government has invested $15.2 million in capital upgrades for Lethbridge schools and has continued to fund ongoing construction of a new south side k-5 school.

The statement added the government has also purchased 12 modular expansions — the majority of which are assisting West-Lethbridge schools.

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The statement added that local officials will also have the opportunity to apply for specific funding this fall.

“The local school authorities will be submitting their capital priorities for consideration in Budget 2021 this fall, and these projects will be assessed based on health and safety needs, enrolment pressures, building conditions and functionality and programming.”

Read more: Alberta government to fund new south Lethbridge elementary school

For now, the feedback from parents of children transitioning to this new learning space has been reasonably positive.

“I think it’s a challenge being away from the school for drop-offs and other things like that,” Early learning educator Jenna Friesen said.

“I also think they see the potential to have access to lots of different spaces within the ‘Y,’ and so they’re excited about it.”