St. Albert and Morinville could have three new schools within three years under a massive wave of construction announced this week by Alberta’s premier.
But where those schools will go, and when they’ll get here, are so far unanswered questions.
Premier Jim Prentice announced Wednesday that the province would give Alberta school boards $43.5 million this year to begin planning the construction of 55 new schools and 20 school modernizations.
Four of these new projects will be in the St. Albert region.
They include a new K to 9 school for St. Albert Public that will hold 900 students, a 400-student K to 9 school in Erin Ridge North and a 350-student K to 6 school in Morinville for Greater St. Albert Catholic, and a modernization of Vincent J. Maloney Junior High.
Prentice also announced the construction of 31 new modular classrooms, four of which will go to the St. Albert Public district.
And he promised to release an extra $100 million to fast-track school maintenance projects.
Prentice said in a release that these new schools were meant to address the province’s rapid growth.
“Alberta’s prosperous future has drawn young families from all over Canada and the world to our province,” he said.
“This government is listening to Albertans and acting quickly to deliver on the priorities of Alberta families and communities.”
Public board chair Cheryl Dumont said she was very pleased by this week’s announcement, given that she had coincidentally spoken with local MLAs Doug Horner and Stephen Khan about the need for new schools last Oct. 3.
“We are in deep need of more spaces for children in St. Albert, so we’re absolutely thrilled to get the number-one item on our capital plan,” she said, in reference to the elementary school.
Dumont said she was disappointed that the province didn’t announce a new high school or a modernization for Paul Kane – both of which the board needs – but said she had been assured that Khan was still lobbying for those items.
“We are going to need additional high school spaces within the next five years.”
When, where, how much?
Alberta Education spokesperson Kathleen Range said the province hopes to have the elementary and junior high schools announced this week built by 2017, with the high schools finished by 2018. The new modulars will likely be ready next year.
The province has yet to determine the price tag for this new construction, she continued. Once local boards have figured that out using the $43 million announced this week, the schools would be added on to future budgets.
The province has yet to say how much of the $43 million St. Albert will get, Dumont said.
A 2017 deadline is “quite aggressive” given that the board is just going to tender its most recent new school (Lois E. Hole Elementary) this month, Dumont said. Other school boards have also questioned if the province has the manpower to meet this deadline.
Prentice seems committed, however, Dumont said. “They’re pulling out all the stops.”
The board doesn’t have a site available for this new school, but is in close talks with the city to get one, Dumont said. Jensen Lakes west of the Walmart or the Badger lands in northwest St. Albert were both possibilities. Both sites were currently undeveloped, which could make them less controversial than past picks for school sites.
The public board has yet to decide where it will put its four new portables (which are distinct from the six the board was already getting this fall), Dumont said.
“They’ll go where they’re needed.”
The Gazette has reached out to the Catholic board and should have its comments later this week.