Continuing population growth in communities in Rocky View County is contributing to increasing enrolment in all schools within the Rocky View Schools (RVS) division, according to Colette Winter, director of planning and facilities.
Enrolment throughout the division has increased by 1,058 students or 4.65 per cent, according to Winter. The largest increase is in Airdrie with 675 more students, followed by 243 more students in Chestermere and 180 in Cochrane/Westbrook/Bearspaw. Total enrolment in RVS is now 23,770.
“When we built the budget last spring, we projected we’d grow by about 1,040 students,” said Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach.
RVS will ask the province to provide it with 23 new modular classroom units to alleviate some of the strain on area schools. According to Winter, the request must be submitted to the Minister of Education by the end of October and an answer should be received in January 2018.
“(The request) obviously speaks to the fact that we are continuing to grow at a rapid pace,” said Trustee Todd Brand. “I am hopeful we’ll get a good response from the provincial government and we’ll see these come to us. All of these are high priority items.”
The request includes four modular units for Windsong Heights School and six for Heloise Lorimer School – both in Airdrie – six for East Lake School in Chestermere, four for Langdon School and three for Rainbow Creek Elementary School in Chestermere.
Luterbach said if RVS were to receive all 23 units, it would add about 600 seats for students, far short of what will be required if enrolment continues to grow at a rate of approximately 1,000 students per year.
The province allocated 40 modular classrooms to schools across all of southern Alberta last year, according to Winter.
Trustees voted to revise the Capital Plan to move the building of a new junior high/high school in Langdon from seventh priority to first.
According to Winter, Minister of Education David Eggen has made it very clear school boards will not get approval to build new schools unless two criteria are met: there is a proven student accommodation need and a site is ready – it has roads, access to deep services and the school district is registered as the owner.
The only new school on the division’s priority list that meets these criteria is Langdon, Winter said.
“In the case of RVS, we absolutely have the high utilization but we do not, necessarily, have the sites,” she said.
Trustees Norma Lang and Syvia Eggerer voted against the motion, stating they were not comfortable with changing the division’s priorities.
When the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Teachers Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) reached a new agreement May 24, it included a one-year commitment to provide a $75 million Classroom Improvement Fund (CIF).
According to Luterbach, RVS received approximately $2.6 million to use for classroom improvements, which includes everything from hiring teachers and support staff to purchasing equipment or materials for the classroom.
Each RVS school received base funding of $20,000 plus $72 per student, based on June 1 enrolment figures.
Associate Superintendent of Schools Murray Besenski said all RVS schools had determined how they would use the money they received.
Luterbach said the schools would benefit from the injection of funds but he had some concerns going forward.
“As good a news story this is…it doesn’t come without some challenges. This is $2.6 million going into our classrooms but this is a one-time offer,” he said.