Rocky View Schools (RVS) board of trustees chair Norma Lang said the public school division is “frustrated” and “disappointed” after receiving no funds to build new schools in the Alberta government’s Feb. 28 budget.
“Our number-one advocacy priority is space for schools in Rocky View Schools,” stated Lang in a recent interview. “From the perspective of expecting to get funding for a new school, we are frustrated and somewhat disappointed … It really means our accommodation crisis is going to be even worse than we expected.
“I’ll be honest,” the chair added. “We expected we would have construction funding for at least a couple of our top four capital project priorities – that didn’t happen.”
Thirteen new school builds were approved in the provincial budget last week. While capital funding was approved to build a new Francophone secondary school in Airdrie for Le Conseil scolaire FrancoSud, this won’t do very much to ease space pressures in the city’s public school system.
RVS has been trying to draw the provincial government’s attention to the space crisis facing its urban schools for much of the past year, with high schools in Chestermere, Airdrie and Cochrane operating at or over a 100 per cent utilization rate.
“We know Airdrie, Cochrane and Chestermere desperately needed provincial government approval for news schools, and they need it now,” Lang added. “We needed it now. By 2026, Rocky View Schools will have more students than spaces, and with the four years it takes to build a school we are already years behind.”
Lang admitted to being disappointed the board’s advocacy efforts seem to have been in vain.
“We really feel over the last six months we have done everything we possibly can to sound the alarm on this accommodation crisis we see in our school division,” she said. “So it is somewhat disappointing that we weren't included in that last of 13 construction funding projects.”
According to Lang, the only glimmer of hope for a new school for RVS in the recent provincial budget is word the division will be receiving some provincial seed money for planning and designing a future school in southwest Airdrie.
The provincial government’s 2023 budget documents suggest $4 million has been set aside for this purpose province-wide in the coming year. Lang said there is no telling yet the exact amount of funding RVS may receive, as the province hasn’t communicated the actual dollar figure yet.
“That’s a piece of good news for next year, but it does mean instead of having a school opening in Airdrie in 2026, that opening would be delayed until at least 2027,” she said. “It’s a commitment to build something later, essentially.”
Since RVS did not get any capital funding to build any new schools, Lang said it is more important than ever that the province come through on the division’s prior request for 32 new modular classrooms.
“The desperation has hit a new level,” Lang confirmed.
The province has set aside $48 million for new modular classroom builds in 2023, but will not release a list of which school divisions are receiving those modulars for another few weeks.