Last month, the provincial government committed $13.6 million for a new public elementary school to be built in northeast Red Deer, to accommodate growing populations and current and future development in the area.
But that development is not happening fast enough, so the new proposed site for the elementary school is Inglewood in the city’s extreme south.
The Red Deer Public Schools board will meet tonight to vote on the site change, which was recommended by division administration.
Though a new kindergarten to Grade 5 school for northeast Red Deer was a main item on the public division’s capital wish list, it was not exactly expecting a provincial commitment so soon. Its intended site north of the Garden Heights neighbourhood and west of Range Road 272 is still a farmer’s field, unserviced and void of other development.
While the northeast is an area designated for future development, there has been no immediate interest from developers in purchasing the land that would surround a proposed school. So, despite its need, the school division has to wait.
“We’re not developers, so typically the services are brought in by developers and that’s a condition before we build that we have to have a serviced site. Basically the need for the school is just slightly in advance of the land in that area,” said Cody McClintock, associate superintendent of business services with the public division.
McClintock said he believes the site could become available within five years, but with the province committing to open the new school by September 2016, the division finds itself needing to determine an alternative, and fast.
The division has five existing sites in Red Deer that have been identified as potential school sites — in Inglewood, Aspen Ridge, Kingsgate, Davenport, and Timber Ridge. Of those options, administration recommended the Inglewood site because the land is level with no detention pond, allowing for better vehicle and bus access to the school.
Though significant population growth is not expected in the area, superintendent Piet Langstraat said a new school still makes sense for the neighbourhood. Currently, elementary-aged students in Inglewood attend school in Mountview. If the new location is approved, the division will again have to readjust its attendance boundaries, after having done so in 2012 to adjust for École Barrie Wilson in Timberlands, which is to open this September.
The school division says the elementary school will accommodate 500 students upon opening in Sept. 2016. In announcing its funding commitment, the province said the new build will provide space for up to 600 students.