Erin Ridge school site large enough, trustee says
Ron St-Jean says community will benefit from being able to use the facility
Saturday, Feb 08, 2014 06:00 am
The local francophone school board trustee maintains the Eldorado Park school site will be adequate to the high school students’ needs.
“The site is amply large enough to put in the school, the parking lot and the bus byway,” said trustee Ron St-Jean, who represents the St. Albert and Legal area on the Greater North Central Francophone School Board.
The smaller site size will still allow for students to have a gymnasium, labs and other high school facilities.
“It’s going to be a first-class facility with all of the amenities of a regular high school. Clearly superior to what students have in the basement of Youville Centre,” St-Jean said.
St-Jean, along with other representatives and staff from the board, have attended related council meetings, public hearings and the traffic workshop.
“The francophone community, we understand that in any neighbourhood in the city the addition of a new public facility immediately raises obvious questions relating to impact,” he said. “We also know that once the school is open and operational … the majority of the neighbourhood and the neighbours are going to welcome the students and will really benefit from the school and its use by the community.”
The public will have access to those first-class facilities under the joint-use agreement, St-Jean said.
St-Jean addressed some of the consistent concerns heard about the site, noting there is a preference to move to the west side to address traffic issues but said the school itself would be okay if it remains in the current zoned parcel on the northeast corner.
He noted that set-up might not be as good for the neighbourhood’s traffic flow, however.
“There’s ample evidence in the [traffic impact] report to suggest that the site itself would be better located on the west side,” St-Jean said.
Once the school reaches maximum capacity – something St-Jean said isn’t likely to happen anytime soon – there will be 18 buses.
“We contend that our buses are going to have minimum impact,” he said.
“The impact on traffic is going to be significantly less than say if the site had been dedicated to an elementary school,” he said, adding that at elementary schools more parents usually drop off or pick up their children.
Currently Alexandre-Taché has 146 students attending Grades 7-12, he said. By the 2021-22 school year, they predict there will be 342 students. If and when the school starts to approach capacity, the francophone school board will start to look for another high school site. St-Jean said they can’t expand on the Eldorado site as a result of the public-private partnership deal that will build the school.
The Eldorado Park site is centrally located and will help serve the broad catchment area, St-Jean said. He said it’s also the only option.
“As has been mentioned quite a number of times, there are no other available sites,” he said. “We could eventually access Badger lands and Riverside, but that would delay the whole process another three to five years and it’s just not acceptable to us.”
St-Jean said the lack of clarity over where the school will be located in the park – which depends on if bylaws that would change the zoning so the school could be placed anywhere on the site – won’t put the site at risk.
The Alberta government has committed to building a francophone high school, he said.
“That commitment is, we use the word ‘rock-solid’ and it won’t be jeopardized despite the current uncertainty of the specific siting of Alexandre-Taché in Eldorado Park,” he said.
“I wish to commend the people from the Erin Ridge community, the advisory committee, because they’ve been very professional about the whole issue,” he said.
He knows some of the residents have had issues around clarity, he said, and can understand their frustration.
St-Jean wanted to highlight the addition the school, students and staff will add to the neighbourhood, noting it will add 15-20 jobs and potentially help attract new people to St. Albert.