The Alberta government announced $397 million in funding for 25 school projects on Friday, which covers both design work on new schools, as well as construction on new builds and renovations at existing facilities.
While the province said the budget supports 15 new schools, six replacements and four modernizations, ten of the projects received design funding only — including several of the eight projects announced for the Edmonton region.
Among those are two new high schools in southeast and southwest Edmonton.
Edmonton Public Schools has received money to design a high school in The Meadows neighborhood in southeast, which was identified as the EPSB’s top priority in its capital plan released last year. The cost of building the school was estimated at $79 million when the plan was released.
Edmonton Catholic also received money to begin planning for a high school in the southwest Heritage Valley area. The ECSD’s 2019-2022 capital plan called for a high school that can host up to 1,200 students, and the school was ranked third on the priority list.
In the Windermere-Keswick area, money to build new K-9 schools for both Edmonton Public and Catholic was announced Friday. Edmonton Public listed that school as its top priority, while it was third on the list for Edmonton Catholic.
The Windermere area is one of several new neighbourhoods that has sprung up in the past decade or so — attracting young families and with that, putting south side schools at or over capacity.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Friday’s announcement is the result of going over the capital plans of all 61 school divisions in Alberta.
These are the priorities that have been stamped by the school board,” she explained to Danielle Smith on Global News Radio 770 CHQR.
“They rank their priorities in terms of first, second, third, modernization versus new builds, et cetera, et cetera.”
LaGrange said those priorities are analyzed by Alberta Education, which weighs several factors.
“We determine the priorities across the province and we balance that out. Sometimes there are health issues in particular schools that we need to address, such as aging schools with deteriorating infrastructure. And then we determine what are the top priorities that can fit within the envelope that we have of dollars available,” she said.
LaGrange said the province is spending $397 million this year, which is part of an overall $1.8 billion being spent on new infrastructure across the province.
“Of course, there are finite dollars, so we cannot address the needs of every single school division in one particular announcement,” LaGrange said.
Other projects announced for the Edmonton region include money for Black Gold School Division to plan for a new high school in Leduc, and money for St. Albert Public Schools to add expand and modernize Bellerose Composite High School.
Several elementary schools were among Friday’s announcement, and LaGrange said they will include playgrounds — something not always included in past new builds and replacements. It’s often fallen on parents volunteers to raise funds for the structures.
“The cost of playgrounds these days are upwards of $200,000, which is significant fundraising,” LaGrange said, adding that can take years to accomplish.
“I’ve directed my department to ensure that with every new school built — K to 9, K to 6 — that we have a playground built, that cost factored right into the cost of the building of that particular school.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to parents to have to fundraise for the health and well-being of the students. And I don’t think that’s fair for parents to raise those significant dollars.”
LaGrange said the province is also committing $25 million to build more modulars to add that extra classroom space as required.
Below is a break down of all of the school projects announced for the Edmonton region, as well as central and northern Alberta.
(Projects in italics indicate they only received design funding.)
To see the school projects announced for the Calgary region and southern Alberta, click here.
The province said the budget also includes $1.4 billion over four years to continue work on previously announced school projects across Alberta, which includes $123 million for about 250 new modular classrooms.
READ MORE: Highlights from Alberta budget 2019
There are more than 60 projects underway in the province, according to Alberta Education, and 27 are expected to be open for the 2020-21 school year. The remaining projects are in various stages of planning and construction.
The province said it will also provide $527 million to school divisions for plant operations and maintenance to support the day-to-day upkeep of school facilities.
Additionally, Alberta Education said $194 million will support the capital maintenance and renewal of existing school buildings through the Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal Program.
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