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New elementary school approved for west Lethbridge

Click to play video: '‘Long-awaited’ school project approvals excite Coaldale and Lethbridge divisions' ‘Long-awaited’ school project approvals excite Coaldale and Lethbridge divisions
A brand-new Lethbridge elementary school and the redesign of a Coaldale school will help address the needs facing growing populations in both southern Alberta communities. Eloise Therien has details on what the projects will mean for students in the future. – Mar 11, 2021

The Lethbridge School Division has officially been approved to build a new elementary school in the community of Garry Station following a provincial announcement Wednesday.

The build is part of $268 million in provincial funding for new schools and education projects throughout the province, as part of the Alberta 2021 budget.

Read more: 14 school projects approved in 2021 Alberta budget revealed

Christine Light, chair of the board for LSD, says a new school has been a top priority for the division for the last four years, as the population of students in west Lethbridge continues to grow beyond current capacity.

“The government of Alberta has heard our concerns and our advocacy has paid off, and they’re seeing the needs of the city of Lethbridge,” she said.

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Currently, the division has four elementary schools on the west end of town, an area that has grown rapidly for several decades.

Light says this will become the largest elementary school in the city once it opens.

“The current one — Dr. Robert Plaxton — being built as well as Coalbanks, they were both 600-student capacity, and so we know that there is going to be continued growth on the west side, so we dreamed bigger,” she said.

“We applied for a 900-student capacity school.”

Read more: More Lethbridge students returning to the classroom

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With the planning phase still ahead, the division expects construction on the new facility to begin in about two years, with the earliest possible opening in September 2025.

“They are going to have more space in the gym, more space in their learning commons, more space in their classrooms, and I’m just really excited for the opportunities they’re going to have.”

Coaldale receives green light for high school reconfiguration, reconstruction

Wednesday’s announcement will also see the replacement and reconfiguration of Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale, which is part of the Palliser School Division.

Dave Driscoll, superintendent of schools, says this project has been a long time coming.

“We are hoping that we can get into the ground and building sometime in the next six to eight months,” Driscoll said. “But a lot of that will depend upon funding from the government-when it comes through and when we can move forward with planning.”

“We’re hoping that in a couple years we’re in that new school.”

The Town of Coaldale and the division have already been working on plans for the facility, which will be built in conjunction with a new recreation centre for the community.

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Along with approval for the relocation, a reconfiguration of grades will see the high school host grades seven to 12, instead of nine to 12.

Driscoll says Kate Andrew’s current school ground isn’t big enough to facilitate the building size they’re hoping to achieve, so a change of location was needed.

“By creating a new school ground we can actually create a bigger school,” he said.

Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig says the news of the approval was very exciting, not only for students, but for the community as a whole.

While there has been some contention regarding the school’s location with some residents worried about the potential dangers crossing Highway 3 and train tracks — Craig says council is confident the site will be a good fit.

“That discussion is still out there and ongoing in the background,” Craig explained.

“But (the town) did a very thorough analysis of the site, and we have a very comprehensive package of information that supports why that site makes sense.”

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