A new high school set to open by 2016 is seen as a positive step for Red Deer Regional Catholic Regional Schools, but there is still more work to be done to ready the division for a growing population.
Several more capital projects were reviewed at the most recent school board meeting, with upgrades to two Red Deer schools at the top of the list.
Board chair Guy Pelletier said one of the top priorities is a new addition to St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, adding capacity for 120 students.
The board wants to build a two-storey addition to the southeast portion of the school with four classrooms and a Career and Technology Studies lab. As well four portables will be brought in and attached to the school.
A second high school will allow the board to move some portables from Notre Dame High School to St. Francis.
With the increased capacity from the project, students in English language programs will be moved from Ecole Camille J. Lerouge to St. Francis, leaving Camille J. Lerouge a solely French school.
“It’s a bit of a domino cycle,” said Pelletier.
“Camille is our most overcapacity school. It’s sitting at close to 130 per cent, so it is really bad.”
St. Francis was built with capacity for 485 students, but had the ability to expand to 700 with upgrades.
According to the board’s capital plan, the school has 483 students this year.
There are several other requests on the board’s three-year capital plan, including a hope for a kindergarten to Grade 9 school in Blackfalds and the modernization of St. Matthew Catholic School in Rocky Mountain House.
“About 200 kids from Blackfalds are being bused into Red Deer now,” said Pelletier.
“That’s a really active community out there.”
The new high school is scheduled to be built and opened for the start of the 2016-17 school year. St. Joseph High School will have Grade 10 to 12 students.
Located in the northeast quadrant of Red Deer, it will be designed to accommodate up to 1,200 students with an initial capacity for 900 students.
“The new priority No. 1 is the five-classroom permanent addition to St. Francis, followed up by Blackfalds and then the St. Patrick’s modernization,” said Pelletier.
“St. Patrick’s has been on the list for a long time and the unfortunate thing about modernizations in a division that is growing like we are is that they have a hard time making it to the top priority.”
Because other projects get in the way, Pelletier said they are working on different strategies to update the school, keeping in mind that the new school requirements for the division aren’t going away.
In February when members of the Progressive Conservative government toured the province announcing new schools and modernization funding, only the high school was announced for the Catholic division.
Pelletier is hopeful more modernizations will be announced going forward and hoping to get the St. Patrick’s project done.
“We keep lobbying hard for the permanent builds we need to serve new students,” said Pelletier.