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    Categories: Local News

Two new schools for St. Albert

CRAMPED CONDITIONS – The hallways at St. Albert's école Alexandre-Taché are filled with students between classes. The francophone board learned the province will build it a new high school in St. Albert.

Erin Ridge will have two new schools by 2016, the city learned this week – one of which will be the new home for students of École Alexandre-Taché.

Premier Alison Redford announced the construction of seven new schools and one school modernization in the Edmonton region Thursday at a press conference held at Edmonton’s George P. Nicholson Elementary. They were the last in a series of about 30 school modernizations and construction projects she announced last week.

“St. Albert will receive a new K-to-6 school in Erin Ridge,” she told the crowd of about 150 guests and students, “and a new Grade 7-to-12 school for the francophone community.”

These announcements are part of a promise Redford made in the last election to spend $503 million in three years to build 50 new schools and renovate 70 others.

“We will not take the approach of the opposition which is a ‘build nothing’ approach,” Redford said, responding to criticism from the Wildrose party of her government’s spending habits. Waiting to build would simply worsen the quality of life for Albertans. “Either we want a world-class education system or we don’t.”

The K-to-6 school will have a capacity of about 600 students, according to the province, and will likely be located on Everitt Drive in Erin Ridge North near the proposed Costco site. Run by St. Albert Public schools, it will likely open in 2016.

Public board chair Joan Trettler gave local MLAs Doug Horner and Stephen Khan a big hug after the announcement in thanks for their advocacy for the new school, and later said she was delighted by the news. “We’ve been really needing this school.”

The board has been looking for a new elementary school for about six years, Trettler said, and recently brought in seven portables to handle its glut of students. They also wanted a school in the northeast part of the city, which currently does not have any schools.

The Greater North Central Francophone Education Region has been lobbying for a proper home for its high school since Alexandre-Taché moved into the basement of the Youville Home in 2009. The school is extremely cramped, has no gymnasium, and has support columns in the middle of some classrooms.

The new francophone school would likely open in 2016 with a capacity of about 300 students, the province reports.

It’s been tapped to be built on Eldorado Drive in Erin Ridge, said Mayor Nolan Crouse, who was an active advocate for the new school, but he was concerned that site might be too small for the school’s future growth. It could also go on a larger site in the Badger lands, he noted.

Francophone board chair Karen Doucet said she was very happy with Redford’s announcement, and thanked the parents and students for their years of hard work. “I’m proud of the way the students and parents and staff have pulled together and made Alexandre-Taché into a school where kids are succeeding.”

This announcement was what the school has been waiting for since 2009, said Alexandre-Taché principal Marcel Ouellette, who had staff read the news over the PA system as soon as they received it. “It was jubilation from what I was told.”

A gym is a central part of a school’s spirit, Ouellette said, as it’s where you hold sports games and assemblies. This new school would have a gym, a Career and Technology Studies (CTS) lab and other facilities that students currently have to travel to other schools to use.

“The words going around from parents and students are ‘a real school,’” he said. “Just like every other junior and senior high school, they’ll have their building and their gym.”

Tom Sutton, one of the members of the parent council subcommittee that lobbied for this new school, said he was very excited when he got the news of the announcement. He has two daughters in Alexandre-Taché, and French is part of their identity. “With any luck, they’ll both graduate from the new high school.”

This new school is a game-changer for St. Albert, Crouse said – for the first time, the city will have full-fledged facilities for K-to-12 francophone education. “People are going to move here because of it.”

It could also lead to some innovative partnerships. Doucet said her board was in talks with the Greater St. Albert Catholic Division to possibly share teachers and/or facilities in the new school, similar to what they plan to do with the Grande Yellowhead school board in Jasper.

It’s early days yet, said Catholic board chair Rosaleen McEvoy, but said partnership could involve the two schools sharing, say, a CTS lab to get better use out of it.

McEvoy said she hoped the province would consider modernizing St. Albert Catholic High and building a new Catholic school in Morinville in its next round of announcements.

Visit education.alberta.ca for details on the new schools.

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.