When afternoon school bells ring in Red Deer, that doesn’t mean the facilities sit empty until morning.
Della Ruston, associate superintendent of systems services at Red Deer Public Schools, said last school year, more than 200 groups rented the district’s schools for a total of 1,936 events, so schools are busy places.
“We can have 14 events in 12 schools on one night, which is not uncommon. It usually happens two nights a week,” Ruston said.
Groups were eager to use the new Westpark Middle School that opened last month.
“People were trying to book that gym long before the school was built.”
She said the district has rented out its school gyms and other spaces for decades to a variety of groups.
“Our board believes strongly in opening our schools to the community when they are not being used by students.”
Rental fees go toward school maintenance and facility upkeep, she said.
“We’re certainly not making money on this at all, and we didn’t want to. We want to open our doors to the taxpayers of the community, the people who built the schools,” Ruston said.
Prices for gyms range from about $20 an hour to $80, depending on whether its rented by a professional organization, non profit or charity. A school host to look after the building while in use costs another $22 an hour.
Jacky Leedholm, receptionist and facility’s co-ordinator at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said the division is now marketing its school gyms more so people know they are an option.
She said gyms are already used for basketball, volleyball, taekwondo and karate.
The Red Deer Royals marching show band regularly uses the new field house at St. Joseph High School. For years, Woody’s Marathon has used the gymnasium at Ecole Camille J. Larouge School.
Some groups also come from other parts of the province.
“The Ukrainian dance club comes out from Edmonton, partly because Red Deer is more central. They have dancers coming from Edmonton and Calgary,” Leedholm said.
Rental fees for Catholic schools in the regional also go toward maintenance. Fees for gyms average about $40 an hour, plus $22 an hour for a school host.