Francophone school approved unanimously

After clearing many hurdles, proponents of a new francophone school celebrated its approval by Red Deer city council on Monday.

After clearing many hurdles, proponents of a new francophone school celebrated its approval by Red Deer city council on Monday.

“We’re really, really excited. It’s been a long process, and it’s taken us a long time to get here. But we’re very excited that all the issues with the land have been resolved and we’re moving forward. It’s going to be awesome for everybody,” said Josée Devaney, secretary-treasurer of the Greater North-Central Francophone Education Region No. 2.

Council unanimously approved (Councillor Cindy Jefferies was absent) the development of a 32,000-sq.ft. francophone school at 4810-34th St. It will be built on the same site and just south of the existing Ecole La Prairie School, between 34th and 35th Street and east of 49th Avenue, next to the Kin Kanyon park trails.

The new K-12 school with 13 classrooms, two portables and two future portables, is slated to begin construction as a public-private partnership this fall and be completed before the fall of 2014. After the new school opens to about 130 students (it’s expected to have 300 students in a decade), the existing old school will be demolished to make room for a soccer pitch.

Devaney said the central site, already owned by the francophone school, was always preferred, but was initially thought too small for the new school construction. The location was revisited after another proposed school site in southeast Red Deer was opposed by many Aspen Ridge residents.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling noted the development permit approved Monday will allow portables that are slated for the east side of the new school to encroach by about two metres onto municipal park property. “Once we made this concession . . . the site became viable,” said Flewwelling, who was pleased the various hurdles didn’t delay the project.

City Manager Craig Curtis noted the approved site has good bus links and ties to park trails. Future plans include replacing the old community centre next door and creating a new spray park.

City council viewed elevation plans showing a beige brick building with blue paneling around the entrance, landscaped with mature trees.

The new school will have shared parking with the community centre and a joint-use playground that’s partly located on parkland.

According to development permit conditions, the school division will have to install a 2.5-m wide sidewalk along 49th Avenue and part of 34th Street. The rest of the sidewalk to Kin Kanyon trails will be built during the park’s redevelopment.

Several councillors praised the joint effort between city and school division staff to accommodate the new building. Coun. Tara Veer particularly liked that the park escarpment will be preserved and the building will be integrated into the surrounding neighbourhood.

City Engineering Services Manager Frank Colosimo confirmed that existing roadways will be sufficient to handle traffic, as 95 per cent of students are expected to be bused to the site. A bus drop-off lane along 49th Avenue and a parent drop-off area along 34th Street are part of the plans.

Anyone interested can view the school site plans at City Hall.