Ground has officially been broken on Langdon’s long-awaited junior/senior high school.
Construction is now underway following the official groundbreaking ceremony in Langdon on June 21, which featured Rocky View Schools (RVS) trustees, Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer, newly appointed minister of transportation Prasad Panda, and Rocky View County (RVC) Mayor Don Kochan.
Construction for the Grade 7-12 school is estimated to last 20 months, and the building is set to open for the 2023-24 school year.
“It is a proud and exciting day for the board to celebrate the beginning of construction on this new school,” said chair of the RVS board and Ward 6 (Cochrane) trustee Fiona Gilbert. “The need for more student space at Rocky View Schools is critical.”
According to Aheer, the provincial government has received over 500 letters since 2015 from parents and students in Langdon asking for a high school to be built within the hamlet.
“This school is built by these children and the families and the community that came together,” Aheer added.
Chrissy Craig, the Chair of the Langdon Community Association, was one of those Langdon residents who penned letter after letter to the provincial government, and took a key role in advocating for the school.
“We created videos that we sent [and] we even took a trip to Edmonton,” Craig added. “There was like 25 or 30 of us kids and adults that went up to sit in the legislature to put a name to the face and then [we] continued writing letters and emails to the ministers and the MLAs to make sure that we were heard.”
According to Craig, the plan for a Langdon-based high school has been in the works for 20 years, since the land was first purchased. However, due to funding concerns, the Langdon high school was often a forgotten project, according to Craig.
“The community has really come together and put a lot of work into advocating so that we don’t get forgotten again back up in Edmonton,” she said.
Langdon currently has two schools – Sarah Thomspon Elementary School for kindergarten to Grade 5 students and Langdon School, which serves students from kindergarten to Grade 9.
With a population of over 5,000 people, Langdon is one of the largest communities in Alberta to not have its own high school. Most high-school-aged youth in Langdon must travel to Chestermere, approximately a 20-minute drive away, for their studies.
“When you take a whole bunch of brand new drivers and you put them on a highway, [that’s] not a safe situation,” Craig said.
However, Chestermere High School operated at 95 per cent capacity during the 2019-20 school year and as both the communities of Langdon and Chestermere continue to grow, the more the tight the corridors of the lakeside city’s public high school will be felt by students and staff.
According to Kochan, with residential development currently underway, Langdon is expected to grow to approximately 10,000 residents within the next 10 years and having a local high school within the community will help support the influx of new families.
“Once built, this school will accommodate and welcome hundreds of students from Langdon and the surrounding community and give them much-needed space to learn and succeed,” Gilbert added.
The construction of the new school will also support the local and provincial economy. According to minister Panda, the project is supporting around 1,700 construction jobs.
Not only does the project add employment opportunities for those working in construction but the additional workers in Langdon means more foot traffic to the local restaurants and gas stations, creating a boost to the local economy.
“It is supporting job and economic activity in this area. Coffee shops, grocery stores…[construction] creates increased traffic [in Langdon],” Panda said.
The Langdon junior/senior high school project is part of a public-private partnership (P3) contract, the details of which were released in 2021. The contract will save taxpayers $114.5 million, according to the Alberta government, and Concert-Bird Partners' will design, build, and finance the new school.
“We know that this community has worked hard and long to have the reality come that students [in] middle and junior high school levels can come to school closer to home,” Gilbert added. “This important milestone today brings us one step closer to this becoming a reality for you.”
For Craig, the school opening means her daughter will be in the second graduating class at the new Langdon high school, while her son will get to attend the school for the entirety of his high school career.
“They don’t quite understand how big of a deal is it but I think some of the kids who are attending Chestermere already [do]. They… just want to go to school with the kids [they] grew up with,” Craig said.
“To watch the ground be broke and the school start being built, it makes all that effort worth it,” Craig added. “Thanks to the community for putting in the effort.”