Contested school proposal comes up for first reading

A proposed francophone school that has received widespread opposition from neighbours in Anders will come forward to Red Deer city council for the first time on Monday.

A proposed francophone school that has received widespread opposition from neighbours in Anders will come forward to Red Deer city council for the first time on Monday.

Council will consider first readings to amend the East Hill Major Area Structure Plan and the Aspen Ridge Neighbourhood Area Structure Plan to allow the school on Addington Drive in Aspen Ridge.

The Greater North Central Francophone Education Region No. 2 has applied to have the City of Red Deer designate the site as a pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 school from a public kindergarten to Grade 8 school. About 250 students would attend the francophone school — 70 of whom would be high school students.

The city began sending out letters last December to residents who live near the school site. Since then, the school received 196 letters with three in support and another 193 opposed.

Residents expressed concerns about traffic, parking, the use of portable classrooms, community standard issues like parking, the effects on residents staying at the Red Deer Hospice a couple blocks down the road, stormwater management, as well as conformity with city planning policy.

A city staff report indicates that most people were concerned about traffic and parking, so a traffic impact assessment will be done that will be presented to the Municipal Planning Commission. A preliminary traffic assessment shows the area would be able to handle the increased load in traffic, says the report.

The new francophone school is one of three P3 (public private partnerships) school projects that the province has planned for Red Deer. The schools will open for the 2014-15 school year.

The East Hill Major Area Structure Plan gives direction for Catholic kindergarten to Grade 6 schools, public kindergarten to Grade 8 schools and high schools, but doesn’t specifically address kindergarten to Grade 12 schools.

Given that the maximum enrolment of students is less than a typical elementary/junior high school or a typical senior high school, the requirements outlined in the East Hill plan appear to show that the francophone school would be OK for the area, says the report.

If council gives first reading, a public hearing would be held on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. during council’s regular meeting.

The staff report says that most of the concerns among neighbours do not relate directly to the proposed amendment, but rather to detailed site design, which municipal administration and the planning commission will address at the development stage. The public will also have the chance to comment on the proposed school development when it’s before the planning commission.

If city council gives final approval for redesignation, the planning commission would still have to approve the school.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com