by Colin Smith
A K-6 school in Morinville is among 55 new schools and 20 modernization projects announced for 2014-15 by Premier Jim Prentice on Oct. 8.
The school to be part of Greater St. Albert Roman Catholic Separate School District No.734 will have an opening capacity of 350 students. Construction is expected to start in December 2015 with an estimated occupancy date of September 2017. No cost projection for the project has yet been made.
The newly announced projects are part of what the government calls a three-phase 10-year build-out comprising 230 capital projects. Cost for the third phase is estimated at $2 billion.
The previous phases include 35 schools announced in 2011, of which 31 are complete, and 50 new schools and 70 modernizations announced in 2013, all but of five of which will be ready for students in 2016, according to government information.
School boards will receive $43.2 million in funding to school boards this year to begin immediate planning for the new schools and modernizations. The government expects this allocation will accelerate projects by up to one year.
“We are moving quickly to provide school boards that have high-growth enrolment with the predictability they need for longer-term infrastructure planning,” said Minister of Education Gordon Dirks. “I am pleased to equip them with the extra resources they need to meet this challenging situation now and in years to come.”
Building the schools is to be overseen by a four-member cabinet committee, consisting of Minister of Infrastructure Manmeet Bhullar, Education Minister Gordon Dirks, Minister Diana McQueen and Minister Jeff Johnson, who will be tasked with seeing opening targets are met.
It’s intended the committee will consult regularly with school boards, municipalities and the construction industry to expedite permitting and other approvals, and to speed the completion of the projects.
“This approach to building schools will get children into new classrooms sooner and protect existing schools so they are safe and comfortable for students,” Bhullar said. “Our committee will provide senior-level oversight, help streamline processes, and ensure these schools open on time as promised.”
Another $100 million has been allocated to fast-tracking school maintenance projects.
The government also announced a new School Program Status report that will enable Albertans to track all school builds and modernizations. The report is available from the Department of Infrastructure at http://infrastructure.alberta.ca/3849.htm.
The government states that three phases of building amounts to the largest school construction project in Canadian history.
The province has not identified a location for the announced school.