Parents living in southwest Calgary have formed a group to demand a new Catholic high school be built in their area.
Land near 93 Street S.W. in Aspen Woods was set aside for a new Catholic high school back in 2001 and has been in the capital plan since 2015. But parents are still waiting.
“One of the biggest implications of not having a publicly funded high school in west Calgary is the absolute crowding that we are seeing with the infrastructure that we have in place,” said Krista Li, chair of the West Calgary Catholic High School Advocacy Group.
Members of the group are angry about the idea of their kids having an hour-long commute across the city to St. Mary’s High School in Mission.
“As a family, we have to consider if this is where we will continue to live,” Li said.
“If I have to send my child 67 minutes to school, that is an egregious commute.
“I think the impact of a long commute on children has been well studied and well documented.”
The Calgary Catholic School District says over the past seven years it has received significantly less in terms of infrastructure money compared to other metro boards in Alberta.
CCSD did an examination into funding disparities from 2013 to 2019 and found inequities in per-student capital infrastructure funding, according to Martin.
“That really makes a difference. It is a significant shortfall.
“We have tried to raise the profile of this. Our students and our families deserve the same high-quality infrastructure that all students do,” said Mary Martin, CCSD board chair.
Martin says there are acute pressures on some high schools.
The number one priority is a modernization of St. Martin de Porres High School, which is near 100 per cent capacity.
“Most of our high schools are over 85 per cent capacity. We are feeling growth pressures throughout those and they are not going to go away anytime soon. We expect them to actually be exacerbated,” Martin said.
Justin Marshall, a spokesperson for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said each year, school boards are required to submit three-year capital plans to Alberta Education that outline their capital needs.
These plans are then used to develop the provincial capital plan and are prioritized based on evaluation criteria under the categories of: health and safety, enrolment pressures, building conditions, functionality and programming and legal requirements.
“The Calgary Catholic School Board has recently completed two major high school projects; construction of the new All Saints High School opened in September 2018 and the modernization of St. Francis High School was completed in April 2020,” Marshall said in a statement.
“Calgary Catholic’s 2021-24 capital submission does not include a new high school as one of their top five priorities.”
The situation has left parents frustrated, wondering when their kids will have a high school in their area.
“It seems to be a vicious circle of blame,” Li said. “Nobody wants to take responsibility for why the school isn’t happening.”
Capital Funding Infographic January 15 2021 (002) on Scribd