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Mixed feelings greet end of school site process

Erin Ridge Residents' Action Committee unhappy; francophone superintendent relieved

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 01, 2014 06:00 am

Erin Ridge residents are unhappy with a city move to allow a francophone high school in their neighbourhood. The francophone school board, on the other hand, is relieved.
Erin Ridge residents are unhappy with a city move to allow a francophone high school in their neighbourhood. The francophone school board, on the other hand, is relieved.
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Reaction to the finalization of Eldorado Park’s redistricting from the interested public was predictably mixed.

On Monday, council passed two bylaws that will result in the option to place the new regional francophone high school anywhere on the site.

Henri Lemire, superintendent for Greater North Central Francophone School Board, is glad to see the end of the contentious process.

“We’re very pleased, we’re grateful, but probably mostly we’re relieved,” Lemire said Thursday.

The process raised more rancor and anxiety than needed, he said, adding it’s a fact there were only three shovel-ready school sites available when the province announced the new francophone high school and new elementary school for St. Albert last spring.

One of those sites, in Oakmont, was grandfathered to the Catholic school board, leaving only sites in Erin Ridge and Erin Ridge North available. The site in the north will play host to a new public school board elementary school, while the high school is taking the Erin Ridge spot.

Lemire is pleased with the Erin Ridge site on Eldorado Park for his school district’s new facility.

“It’s a great site, it’s really quite central,” he said, noting it’s also close to the highway for the out-of-town students. “We certainly think it’s a safe site.”

Lemire said council and administration have been thorough in the process of the redistricting application, which saw amendments to the Erin Ridge area structure plan and the land use bylaw pass earlier this week.

The amendments changed the Eldorado Park site so that the school could be located anywhere in the park, rather than limited to 2.99 acres on the northeast corner. Preliminary information from staff indicated the school is now likely to be located on the west side of the park and could be a potential half-acre bigger than 2.99 acres.

Unlike Lemire’s relief, Murray Lambert, a representative from the Erin Ridge Residents’ Action Group said by email the process has been “choreographed in a most clandestine fashion by both municipal and provincial officials.”

“Recent actions and revelations on the part of council and administration confirm our suspicions that ‘the fix was in’ from the start,” Lambert said.

“While not surprising, it is disappointing to realize that our elected officials, in particular the mayor who seems to control the thoughts and minds of the majority of councillors, hold those whom they are sworn to serve and protect in very low regard, preferring instead to satisfy interest groups and developers,” Lambert wrote.

In an email following first and second readings of the bylaws, which took place Feb. 18, Lambert said the careful argument presented by those who were against the amendments, and in many cases the school’s location on the park, fell on deaf ears.

“Neither the citizens of St. Albert nor the seemingly unaware regional francophone community have been well served by what has transpired this day,” Lambert said.


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