Catholic chair makes pitch for new schools
Catholic students need two new schools built and two old schools modernized each year to keep pace with enrolment, Edmonton’s Catholic school board chairman says.
“We’re hopeful that those needs will fall on understanding ears,” board chairman Terry Harris said Tuesday.
His comments came the same day a former Alberta education minister called on the province to put a moratorium on all new Catholic school construction.
New attendance and demographic data prompted the Edmonton Catholic board to reorder its school construction request list Tuesday, pushing a new Catholic K-9 school in Keswick and a new K-6 school in Lewis Farms up the list.
Parents in southeast Edmonton may be disappointed a K-6 school planned for the Meadows has been nudged to priority No. 6 from its previous top spot.
During the past year, the number of students attending Catholic schools who live in Keswick and Lewis Farms has jumped, said Boris Radyo, assistant superintendent of educational planning.
St. John XXIII, the closest Catholic school to Keswick, is at 98 per cent capacity, and expected to hit 113 per cent by 2022, even if the district adds eight portable classrooms, Radyo said.
Likewise, Bishop David Motiuk, the closest Catholic school to Lewis Farms, is projected to hit 121 per cent capacity by 2022.
Former education minister David King, who runs a campaign to amalgamate the public and Catholic school systems, said Tuesday the province should stop funding Catholic school construction.
“It is time for a thoughtful conversation, involving every interested Albertan, about why we duplicate administration and services, and operate underutilized schools, to preserve a denominational privilege that is out of keeping with current human rights practices and may no longer be relevant,” King wrote.
The government won’t consider such a moratorium, said Education Minister David Eggen’s press secretary, Lindsay Harvey.
“Minister Eggen and Premier Notley have been clear: our government supports Catholic education in Alberta,” she said in an email Tuesday evening.
Edmonton’s public school board passed a motion in March to lobby government to ensure public schools get a “fair and equitable share” of school construction dollars, after a trustee said funding decisions unfairly favoured Catholic boards.
Harris said that approach is “problematic” when one considers the substantial growth in Catholic schools. Nearly 9,000 more students attend Edmonton Catholic schools today than in the fall of 2010 — a 26 per cent increase.
The Catholic district’s revised school construction priority list, approved unanimously by the board Tuesday, has a No. 1 request for $1 million in design funding from the province for a new high school upgrading centre, also in Lewis Farms.
The west-end high school completion centre would be housed in a new city recreation centre that includes child care, an aquatic centre and other amenities, Radyo said. The district must tell the city by Dec. 1 whether they’re part of the joint project, he said.
The upgrading school would serve fourth- and fifth-year high school students, new parents still in school, Indigenous students and English-language learners.
We’re hopeful that those needs will fall on understanding ears.