City abandons Kingswood site for new French school
Next school in St. Albert will be built elsewhere
Saturday, Nov 03, 2012 06:00 am
The city is throwing in the towel in its long-running battle with a local developer to build a French high school in Kingswood.
During an editorial board meeting Wednesday, Mayor Nolan Crouse said if the province announced a new French school for the francophone district, the city would have to build it somewhere else.
“Nothing in Kingswood,” Crouse said. “What council is going to be doing is sending a letter to the school boards saying if there is going to be another school in St. Albert, we’ll have the land to be able to provide it, but it won’t be in Kingswood. We just don’t have the willing landowner.”
The city has been sparring with Canterra, the developer of Pineview and Kingswood, to hand over title to a swath of land for construction of a park. Canterra has refused to do so unless the city guarantees the land won’t be used to build a high school.
The battle has led to a stalemate in which Canterra refuses to hand over the title and the city has said Canterra won’t be able to build any more homes in the area until it gives the land to the city.
“The developer hasn’t let that be an option and that’s disappointing.”
Murray Brown, Canterra’s president, told the Gazette in September he opposed having a francophone high school in the area because it would be regional in nature, so there would be more cars in the area, and because he didn’t feel teenagers make good neighbours.
Brown did not return calls from the Gazette seeking comment.
Crouse said any schools announced by the province will have to be located on an already existing school site. Possible locations include Oakmont, Erin Ridge, Erin Ridge North and Riverside. If the province announced a school for the francophone district tomorrow, Crouse said, the city could even build the school on the Badger lands, just off St. Albert Trail and Villeneuve Road.
“Water and sewer are just across the highway,” Crouse said.
Henri Lemire, the francophone district’s superintendent, said he hadn’t heard of the city’s decision.
“It’s like anything else, there’s always an optimum site. There’s always location, location, location,” Lemire said. “The Kingswood site has two great assets – one being located on a major arterial road and being essentially across the street from the leisure centre.”
Coun. Cathy Heron, who has been pushing for the city to act so that Kingswood residents can have their park, said the outcome is disappointing.
“Because I feel like (Brown) is going to win this one,” Heron said.
Both Heron and Crouse said they feel St. Albert is near the top of 50 cities to get a school the next time the province announces new buildings. Lemire said he had no information.
Students from the francophone district attend Ecole Alexandre-Taché, which is located in Youville Home.
“We know from experience our parents are quite accommodating,” Lemire said. “If there’s a new school, they’ll make sure their kids attend regardless of where it is. Obviously we want a site that’s large enough.”
Crouse said he sees potential in the tourism industry for increasing the city’s francophone presence. Besides adding a high school, he is also supportive of Arts and Heritage St. Albert’s plans to build a francophone interpretive centre on Riverlots 23 and 24.
“I think there are opportunities. There’s money. The French community has money,” Crouse said. “Economic development, tourism development and I think it’s an education opportunity and if we had a francophone high school, I think you would see a shift in where people move to. They would move to St. Albert if you can go to school K-12.”