Concerns about a future classroom crunch were shared after no new schools were approved for Red Deer in this year’s provincial budget.
Both Red Deer Catholic and Public Schools officials expressed disappointment their proposals were not included in the list of 20 school infrastructure projects that were announced on Friday by Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.
The only Central Alberta school on the list was the modernization of the K-9 Father Lacombe Catholic School in Lacombe, which is under the auspices of the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Separate Regional Division.
“If we had a new middle school open today, we could fill it,” said Catholic board chair Anne Marie Watson. But she noted that it actually takes about three years to open a school from the time funding is approved and it gets built.
That means no new schools will be opening their doors to Red Deer students for four or more years.
Although neither of the growing Red Deer school divisions are in a space crisis at this moment, administrators can’t say they won’t be that far down the road.
Watson’s Catholic district is seeking to build a K-5 school in Red Deer, as well as a new middle school. Without these projects, she anticipates larger classes will be taught in inferior spaces. “Really it’s the students who suffer,” she added.
Bruce Buruma, corporate secretary of Red Deer public schools, noted that his district needs a Grades 6-8 School in the Timberstone area and a list of modernization projects, including Glendale School, Oriole Park Elementary, Fairview Elementary, Eastview Middle School,
Applications have already been made for four modular classrooms for Gateway Christian School, which is already over-capacity. “We anticipate news from the provincial government soon on this important need,” said Buruma.
He noted that the government has come through with recent school building projects, such as the recently opened Don Campbell Elementary, and will do so again. In the meantime, “we’ll always have desks (available) for kids.”
Watson’s district is also requesting portables. If the strong student growth continues, “we’ll make due… we’ll have to find some creative solutions,” she said — such as adapting non-teaching spaces into classrooms.