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Wolf Creek Public Schools bumps up Blackfalds projects

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Schooling for the Town of Blackfalds has shifted up the priority list for Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS).

 

A revision of their three-year capital plan was approved at their board meeting Friday, Oct. 6, which saw the modernization of Iron Ridge Elementary Campus and a core, grade 9-12 high school for Blackfalds become the top two priorities for the district.

The decision was made following recent meetings with Alberta Education Capital Planning Branch staff, where they toured schools in Blackfalds and Rimbey to assess infrastructure, capacity and enrolment trends.

The latter, according to WCPS Superintendent Jayson Lovell, was one of the key factors in the revision.

“All three Blackfalds schools - Iron Ridge Elementary, Intermediate and Iron Ridge Junior campus have very much been in a growth trend for quite some time,” he said.

“When we look at the growth in Lacombe, combined with the growth in Blackfalds we really feel there needs to be both the modernization of the elementary campus and a new core 9-12 high school.”

Originally, he said WCPS didn’t think they would need to revise the capital plan so soon, especially with the opening of Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus last year.

However, updated census information helped change that. According to census data, there are 1,179 children between zero and five years of age, and around 800 between the six and 10 years of age, putting pressure on each of the three schools in Blackfalds.

At the elementary campus, space is especially tight, with two change rooms converted to classrooms last year, as well as the library and the addition of two portables.

Lacombe Composite High School, where around 200 students from Blackfalds are sent to receive their grade 10-12 education, is expected to reach capacity within the next three to five years.

The modernization of Iron Ridge Elementary Campus is set to cost just over $6.7-million.

A core high school with an 850-student capacity is projected to cost around $26-million.

“The request for that particular high school is to provide a variety of career and technologies studies programming.,” said Lovell. “Typically those would be what we call the trades based programs. We would want to see opportunities for students in the way of construction technology, fabrication studies, food preparation and a variety of programs in addition to the regular academic courses.”

At the Town of Blackfalds regular council meeting on Tuesday, council discussed the change to the capital plan.

“The change to put the modernization of Iron Ridge Elementary Campus at number one is an absolute victory for the community,” said Mayor Melodie Stol. “That school is over capacity and that needs to be addressed.”

However, there was some concern that the word “core” and not “composite” was included with the high school.

“If core means no options, then our community still has a long fight,” said Stol. “If they opened a core - just a core - boundary would apply. That means if you had a student who wanted to take construction...they would not be able to take a school bus to Lacombe. I would be cautious the word core is in there and not composite.”

While Blackfalds projects moved up in the priority list, Rimbey Junior/Senior High School fell to number three.

Lovell said WCPS decided to approach the project in a different way.

“The reason for that is we’re able to put together dollars internally through our income structure maintenance renewal fund and we feel we should be able to come up with $3.5-4 million to address the modernization of that particular school,” he said.

The newly revised three-year capital plan will now be submitted to the province by the Oct. 15 deadline. WCPS will then wait for the provincial budget announcement in Spring 2018 where announcements for new schools and modernizations are made.

“If they are announced, that is a huge, important step and then we’ll know timelines and processes that we can start to follow and hopefully get to a scenario of construction of those facilities in the near future,” he said. 

-abarrett@postmedia.com



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