Province announces plans for priority school projects across Alberta

The province announced 33 priority school projects Wednesday after revealing Alberta would have its largest education budget ever.

The budget, which was tabled Tuesday, allocates $2.3 billion over three years to modernize existing schools and build new ones.

The education construction plan — for grades K-12 — includes 58 total projects, 47 of which are full (planning and construction) projects, and 11 planning-only projects.

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The province said acquiring building sites has been the biggest roadblock and hopes that the money budgeted for planning stages will help move this part of the process along.

The budget allocated $372 million to allow for 10 new schools to be built, 16 replacement schools and seven modernizations, education minister Adriana LaGrange said at a news conference in Calgary.

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There will be a grand total of 25,000 additional and new spaces across the province, including 4,500 in Calgary and 4,100 in Edmonton.

Construction of 13 schools — across the province, including in Calgary and Edmonton — will begin this year with full funding. A full list of schools receiving full construction funding can be found on the provincial website.

Edmonton Public School Board trustee Trisha Estabrooks said today’s announcement was highly anticipated because it’s been a top priority for years. LaGrange confirmed that the schools selected to receive funding were chosen from a priority list given by school boards across the province.

Click to play video: 'Priority education infrastructure projects to be funded by Alberta Budget 2023'

Priority education infrastructure projects to be funded by the Alberta Budget 2023

Estabrooks said while it’s great that K-9 schools are getting funding, it’s the high schools that are largely not fully funded and feeling the crunch the most, including the Glenridding Heights area in the deep southwest.

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That part of the city has seen massive growth in the past two decades, as new, affordable homes have sprung u, attracting families with young children. In years past, elementary schools were bursting at the seams but now, students are aging.

“When we talk about space crunch at Edmonton Public, it’s in our high schools — that’s why Glenridding was number one on our list.

“We need high school space. We still need high school space.”

There are three high schools in deep southwest Edmonton: Mother Margaret Mary and Lillian Osborne in the Terwillegar area (which is at capacity) and the 2,000-student Dr. Anne Anderson School at the south end of the Rutherford area, which just opened in the fall of 2022.

Already, students in the southwest are being bussed to overflow schools closer to the city’s core, such as Strathcona High School.

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Estabrooks said Edmonton Public Schools will be out of high school space by 2027 at the current rapid rate of enrollment expansion.

While the new funding doesn’t cover all the top priorities, it’s a good start, she said. The budget did fund a new K-9 public school in west Edmonton’s Edgemont neighborhood.

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The Edmonton Public School Board raises concerns about having enough space for all high school students

Another high school on the list to be modernized is John G. Diefenbaker High School in Calgary, which will also see a new K-9 Catholic school build in Nolan Hill.

Neighborhood resident Maidul Shaikh and his son, Ayaan, welcome a school closer to home.

“I don’t like going on the bus because it takes me so long, I barely even get to see my friends,” said Ayaan, who travels half an hour by bus to get to school every day.

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“My little kid goes far away — it takes half an hour to get to school. And I have another one and he goes to kindergarten next year, but there’s nothing around here,” said Maidul of the school situation in his area.

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Luckily, officials are on their side and are continuing to advocate for more funding despite the new budget being only a day old.

“A new school is only one part of the solution,” said Medeana Moussa with Support our Children Alberta. “The other part is that we actually have to fund classrooms — we need more teachers, we need EA’s (educational assistants) and we need more support for all students.”

To the west of Edmonton, the budget included design funding to replace the 1,227-student Spruce Grove Composite High School that serves half of Parkland County.

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