Catholic schools full in Central Alberta
More students are in desks across each of the six Central Alberta school divisions, even if some of those desks are now in what were once staff rooms or libraries.
For the third consecutive year, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools is dealing with an increase in enrolment of approximately five per cent.
The division now encompasses over 7,700 students after a gain of 351 pupils over last fall.
Its schools are full and waiting lists are common across the division, urban and rural.
It is a good problem to have, said the division’s board chair.
“We sometimes think increases are little blips, but because we’ve had steady, roughly five per cent increases over the last three years, we see that as a very strong indication that people really like our Catholic faith-based education that we offer here in Red Deer and surrounding area,” said Adriana LaGrange.
To deal with some of that growth, the division will hope to add six new modular classrooms to its highest growth schools — two each for Notre Dame High School, Camille J. Lerouge School and St. Francis of Assisi Middle School — by next fall.
Changes in the funding model for modulars announced as part of this year’s provincial budget though, requiring school divisions to cover half the costs of transportation and installation of the units, mean such an order could cost the division hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We’re hopeful that the province will revisit how they are funding the modulars,” said LaGrange, adding that the division does have some reserves it could tap into, though such a situation would not be ideal.
Because Notre Dame High School is already at its limit for attachable modulars, two more, if approved, would be apart from the school, east of the main structure. The school was designed for 1,200 students; 1,509 are enrolled this year.
The division is hoping the province will be announcing funding for a new Catholic high school in Red Deer in the fall.
Red Deer Public School Division’s growth rate, meanwhile, was about one per cent. With a net gain of 123 students for 2013-14, the division is now home to 10,511 pupils.
Superintendent Piet Langstraat said growth is consistent across the city’s schools, with the increases most dramatic over the last few years.
“The challenge for the new board is going to be infrastructure needs and how to address that with Alberta Education,” said Langstraat.
Both Red Deer divisions will have new elementary schools opening for the 2014-15 school year.
Chinook’s Edge School Division was projecting a decline of about 100 students this year, but student numbers are actually up 28 to 10,806 in 2013-14. Superintendent Kurt Sacher said the downward trend was expected due to declining rural demographics, but growth in Sylvan Lake, Penhold and Carstairs has pushed enrolment totals up.
The board will be writing a letter to government ministers and the Sylvan Lake municipal government, indicating the pressing need for a new school for the town. Sacher said there have been stresses in the town for a few years.
“Those stresses are just getting more significant this year as we turn libraries and staff rooms and music rooms into classroom space. As we do that it just becomes more and more difficult for teachers and students inside the building,” he said.
Wolf Creek Public Schools as well was projecting a decline of about 140 students this year, but is actually up nine students overall to 7,263. Schools in Blackfalds saw the largest enrolment increases in the division.
Wild Rose Public Schools also is exhibiting a modest increase, with 5,135 students enrolled in September, up 14 from the same month in 2012. A gentle decline was expected.
And Clearview School Division is up 21 students to 2,446. The largest increase is in pre-kindergarten programming, and Coronation School saw the biggest jump in student enrolments.