Red Deer will get funds this year to construct a previously announced new Catholic middle school, as well to modernize and expand Hunting Hills High School, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Wednesday.
LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer North, spoke at a virtual press conference along with Alberta Infrastructure Minister Presad Panda, about 14 school building projects in the province totalling $268 million.
They will be included in $2.1 billion in educational capital spending over three years, which will also cover maintenance projects and new modular classrooms across Alberta.
“Our government is planning for the future,” said LaGrange, who noted new and modernized schools create better learning environments.
Panda said, “We are building world-class schools in every corner of our province,” putting Albertans to work while ensuring “top-tier” educational facilities for students.
A new middle school had been promised by the province to the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools in 2019. The school has already been named the St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School, and a site was already been selected for it in Kingsgate, Kentwood.
Former board chair Anne-Marie Watson had stated mid-last year that the district had yet to receive design funding for this school.
But LaGrange said on Wednesday that design funding was provided, and now the district would receive the construction dollars needed to proceed with the project. In 2021, the middle school project would receive full funding, the minister added.
Watson previously stated a new middle school was badly needed, since the district’s existing middle schools are now running at 110 to 137 per cent capacity.
Red Deer Public Schools has also been waiting for a new Grades 6-9 school — and had expressed disappointment at being left of the capital project list in 2019 and 2020.
While no money for a new public middle school was announced in the 2021 budget either, LaGrange said one of the public high schools will be expanded to allow for more student spaces.
LaGrange said roofing problems at Hunting Hills High School have caused “significant deterioration.” A modernization project will therefore get underway to fix the school’s roof and mechanical and electrical systems, as well as add classroom space for 200 more students.
“We are grateful to the minister as well as Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan for the announcement of the modernization and expansion at Hunting Hills High School,” said Nicole Buchanan, board chair.
“This project has been at the top of our list and it’s an important need that must be addressed.”
Over the last few years, more and more students have been attending Hunting Hills, which was built in 1994. The space addition to accommodate 200 more students is eagerly anticipated, said Della Ruston, associate superintendent of support services.
“Many gathering spaces are being used as classrooms in order to accommodate the number of students,” added Ruston. “This school is projected to continue to grow over the next few years, so the addition is very welcome news.”
Red Deer Public Schools is awaiting details from the province in terms of scope, timing and budget for this project.
This story has been corrected to reflect Anne-Marie Watson is the former board chair of the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.