Two new central Alberta schools are among 25 projects announced by Alberta’s education minister on Friday.
The list includes a new middle school for grades 6 to 9 for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and a new grade 9 to 12 Blackfalds high school for Wolf Creek Public Schools.
“Our students will be very happy because they’re squashed into our current middle schools,” said Red Deer Catholic board chair Anne Marie Watson.
The exact location of the school isn’t known yet, but Watson said the north end of the city is preferred.
“We’ve got four middle schools in Red Deer. We’ve got (Camille J. Lerouge School) downtown, that’s a French immersion K-9 school. Then we’ve got St. Patrick’s Community School. That’s on the north side, but it’s a year-round calendar, and not everyone who lives near there would want to attend a year-round school,” said Watson.
“The only other options for (Catholic) middle schools in Red Deer are St. Thomas and St. Francis, which are both on the south side of the city. That’s why we’re looking to find a north school site.”
There are still some questions that need answering before the project will begin, Watson added.
“The funding announcement this morning was for design funding only. We don’t actually know what that means – it’s not a term that’s been used in the past,” she said.
“I can guess it means funding to work with an architect to get the project to a certain point, and then wait for building dollars. But we just aren’t quite sure what it means or what (construction) timelines would look like.
“We’re waiting for further information from Alberta Education on that.”
Jason Lovell, Wolf Creek Public Schools superintendent, said the new Blackfalds high school has been in the district’s capital plan for years.
“We were optimistic that the budget announcement would include us and it did. We’re really excited and pleased that it’s announced and we can look forward to moving forward,” said Lovell.
The project could take as long as three years to complete, he said.
“There is a lot of site preparation and design elements that come in the first year. Then moving to construction, it’s going to be a substantial build.
“Once we get to that stage, it could take anywhere from 18 to 24 months,” he said, adding the district will need to get some more details from the government before setting a timeline for the project.
The new school will be built on a parcel of land acquired from the Town of Blackfalds, next to the Iron Ridge Junior Campus, said Lovell.
“For a community of that size to not have their own high school is a serious challenge. We have been transporting high school students from Blackfalds to Lacombe Composite High School. Busing 200-plus students to a neighbouring community is a challenge,” said Lovell.
A new school in Blackfalds will alleviate some of the enrolment pressure at Lacombe Composite, which is currently sitting at about 87 per cent capacity, Lovell added.
“As we project forward, even looking to the three-year window of this new school opening, we’re going to be well over 90 per cent utilization at Lacombe Composite High School,” said Lovell.
Education Minister Adrian LaGrange said the United Conservative Party “made a promise to Albertans that our government will continue to build new schools, and we are doing exactly that.
“Through our significant investment in new schools, replacements, modernizations and infrastructure upkeep, our children will continue to learn in up-to-date and safe spaces.
“This will result in better success in our classrooms. The future is bright for Alberta students,” said LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer-North.