Sites chosen only ones available: school site allocation committee
Eldorado Park and Erin Ridge North were only choices ready for new schools, Oakmont is reserved for Catholic school
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 06:00 am
The proposed school site for Eldorado Park at the heart of recent controversy was one of the only options available to the committee that decides which schools go where.
“We had to work with the sites we had,” said Barry Wowk, superintendent for St. Albert Public Schools, speaking as a member of the school site allocation committee.
The school site allocation committee is made up of four members – the superintendents or their designates from the francophone, public and Catholic school divisions, and the city manager or his designate. According to the city, francophone and public school representatives, when it was announced in May that St. Albert was to get a new elementary school and a regional francophone junior/senior high, there were only three potential school sites considered “shovel-ready” for the committee to consider.
Those sites are the Eldorado Park site in Erin Ridge, a site in Erin Ridge North and a site in Oakmont. The site in Oakmont is grandfathered in the 2004 school site allocation agreement to the Catholic board and the site in Eldorado was grandfathered to the public school board. Because the public school division preferred Erin Ridge North for their elementary – due to the growing family demographic there – a swap was arranged between the francophone and public school boards, leading to the high school being destined for the Eldorado site.
The province is planning on putting out a request for proposals for contractors to build the St. Albert schools and other new schools for the region likely this fall, though Alberta Infrastructure could not confirm to the Gazette this week the precise timeline.
Since Erin Ridge residents started raising concerns about a school going in that site, citing traffic problems and the small site size, there’s been much talk about where else the francophone school could go.
St. Albert Public Schools board of trustees chair Joan Trettler said they definitely want their elementary school in Erin Ridge North.
“It’s in a growing community,” she said. She’s planning on being at the next council meeting, Aug. 26.
A suggestion during the Aug. 19 council meeting was that the two new schools could share the site in Erin Ridge North.
“There’s barely enough room on the Erin Ridge North site for our school,” Trettler said.
The process set in place by the 2004 agreement has been followed, Trettler said.
“We can’t be backtracking on agreements we have in place,” Trettler said. “We have a process in place, the process was followed. Any delay at all and we’ll be off the list (to get a school).”
Henri Lemire, superintendent for the Greater North Central Francophone Education Region, said worries that the site won’t be large enough aren’t the case. The high school would be built to house up to 450 students, though currently they have 143 students who attend École Alexandre-Taché, hosted in the basement of Youville Home.
“Erin Ridge does meet our needs,” he said. It’s big enough, and close to major arterials for ease of access for the students, he said.
“The school footprint itself and the parking is probably less than two acres,” Lemire said. Lemire is also planning on attending the next council meeting, and on Thursday a press release was issued from the district encouraging supporters to come to council. He said the school currently won’t generate as much traffic as feared, as most students are bused in.
City manager Patrick Draper, who serves as the city’s representative to the school site allocation committee, said the Erin Ridge site was preferred for the francophone school based on the high school’s smaller footprint and accessibility. The elementary school is to have up to 600 students.
Draper said the sites that were picked for the two new schools – Erin Ridge and Erin Ridge North – were based on what sites were ready and available in the time frame required.
If two schools were placed on the Erin Ridge North site no park space would be left, he said. The Kingswood site is not accessible since it’s still owned by a developer, and Draper said Canterra has indicated they don’t have plans to develop the currently vacant lands at the moment. The Badger lands – another suggestion bandied about – would need an area structure plan in place and servicing before it could be ready to go.
“It’s several years away,” Draper said. While some have asked why servicing can’t just be brought across the street from the North Ridge community, he said it’s a question of capacity. Before servicing can be put in, the future developments and site’s needs would have to be considered and the system from North Ridge might not have enough capacity.
“Part of my discussion with the school boards was also centred around what’s the right thing for the students. Sometimes in these discussions what gets lost is who are you actually trying to provide a service to,” Draper said. That includes considering what location would best serve students.
Messages left for comment from the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools were not returned by press time.