This story was updated with additional information on Jan. 27, 2023.
Bellerose Composite will get a little bigger in the years ahead courtesy of a $46.3 million modernization just announced by the provincial government.
St. Albert Public Schools trustees learned Jan. 25 that the province had decided to launch a $46.3 million project to modernize Bellerose Composite High School.
Superintendent Krimsen Sumners told the board that she learned of this decision Jan. 24 through a letter from Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
The modernization would add some 275 student spaces to Bellerose and improve some other aspects of the building, Sumners said. St. Albert Public and Alberta Infrastructure officials would work on the details in the next few weeks.
“We are really grateful to Minister LaGrange and to (Infrastructure Minister Nathan Neudorf) for pushing this project forward and really in such a quick matter,” Sumners said.
In an interview, St. Albert Public board chair Kim Armstrong said this announcement came as a huge relief to the board, and showed how the province recognized the board’s need for student space.
“We’re really pleased the Minister of Education has recognized our need for more high school seats.”
Bellerose is one of the four high schools in St. Albert and has a capacity of about 1,353 students, reports the St. Albert Public Schools three-year capital plan. The school had about 1,076 students in 2022.
In an email, St. Albert Public secretary treasurer Michael Brenneis said the last major expansion to Bellerose was the addition of eight classrooms to it in 2001, with various portables added on over the years. The school has yet to receive a major modernization. The board has wanted to modernize the school since at least 2001, and made the modernization the No. 2 priority on its three-year capital plan in 2017. The province gave the board money to start planning the modernization in 2019.
St. Albert Public had been working on a proposed P3 partnership with Landrex to build a high school in north St. Albert, but learned it would be years before the City of St. Albert serviced the proposed school site, Sumners said. The province now says it will proceed with the Bellerose modernization instead.
“We know with the (student) numbers coming up we won’t have enough space in our high schools within three to five years,” Sumners said, which makes this modernization important.
“The province moved incredibly fast.”
While detailed planning was scheduled to start Feb. 1, Sumners said the current plan for the modernization was to convert the L-shaped block of portables at the back of Bellerose into a permanent two-storey space that could hold more students. The modernization could also address the school’s leaky roof, overheated classrooms, outdated bathrooms, and aging portables.
Sumners said she hoped work on the modernization would start this summer, adding that the upcoming provincial election might affect this timeline. She said the modernization should not be too disruptive to students, as students in the affected portables could be moved elsewhere in the building.
Sumners and Armstrong said the board was still working to get a new high school built to manage student enrolment, which has been rising at about three per cent a year.