Blackfalds, Red Deer to benefit from province’s $2-billion school building and modernization

Blackfalds will get a new school and Red Deer will get cash for upgrades and additions at two schools.

Blackfalds will get a new school and Red Deer will get cash for upgrades and additions at two schools.

Premier Jim Prentice announced 55 new schools and 20 modernizations on Wednesday in a $2-billion school building and modernization plan.

Red Deer Catholic School Division will get a much-needed kindergarten-to-Grade-9 school in Blackfalds and five-classroom addition to St. Francis of Assisi Middle School in Lancaster.

Red Deer Public Schools will get cash to upgrade Westpark Middle School.

Elsewhere in the region, Wild Rose School Division will receive money to upgrade David Thompson High School, which is about 60 km west of Red Deer.

The premier said $43.2 million will be available to school boards immediately to begin planning. Another $100 million will be freed up to fast-track school maintenance projects.

“It was a fantastic day. A bit unexpected but very exciting, “ said Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools board chairman Guy Pelletier, who only found out on Wednesday morning that an announcement was coming later in the day.

A Blackfalds school and the Red Deer addition knock the top two items off the school division’s capital wish list.

Many students from fast-growing Blackfalds are taking school division buses into Red Deer because of a lack of local options.

“There’s a real need in Blackfalds. To be able to provide schooling for them in their own town is huge,” Pelletier said.

“It will be much more convenient for the families and much more efficient on the transportation side.”

Pelletier said a new school wouldn’t likely be ready for students until 2017.

Additional space will be welcomed at St. Francis, which at 565 students is already operating over capacity.

Pelletier said the plan is to move the English program students from Ecole Camille J. Lerouge School to St. Francis when room is available.

At Red Deer Public, board chairwoman Bev Manning said details are still to come on the Westpark project, but the additional funding will be welcomed.

“We’ve had it on the list now for a little bit and it kind of works its way to the top. It’s definitely a need and we’re thankful (the funding) has been announced.”

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