Calgary public school board prioritizes construction projects

Calgary's public school board released a wish list with its draft capital plan Monday that ranks the school projects it wants the provincial government to build over the next three years.

Top of priority list is replacing the Christine Meikle School in Bridgeland

The Calgary Board of Education ranked their upcoming construction projects in its draft capital plan. 2:22

Calgary's public school board released a wish list with its draft capital plan Monday that ranks the school projects it wants the provincial government to build over the next three years.

The wish list, which is only used as a guide by the province in prioritizing spending, names 49 projects totalling $860 million.

The Calgary Board of Education says it's trying to deal with the demand for new schools in the city's fast-growing suburbs and the need for repairs in some of its older buildings.

The top of the priority list is replacing the Christine Meikle School in Bridgeland, which is designed for students with special needs.

The next two communities on the list for new schools are Panorama Hills and Tuscany.

The board also wants to renovate Harold W. Riley Elementary School so it can offer an early childhood education program for aboriginal students.

"We know now that a majority of aboriginal people are moving off reserve and into the city," said Monique Fry with the Calgary Urban Aboriginal Initiative. "More than 50 per cent of the populations and families are living in cities."

Renovations are also slated for six high schools that would host career and technology programs, which is a priority for the board's wish list.

Concerns about time for public feedback

The board says it prioritizes school building projects based on a number of factors, including population growth and school bus transportation times.

But some have concerns about the amount of time parents and citizens have to give their input. The draft plan was released around noon, less than one day before trustees are set to debate and approve it.

"We have about 24 hours for the public to go online, read the docs and get back to us," said trustee Sheila Taylor. "I don't feel that's enough time. We should be actively going out to the public, talking to them about what their concerns are and incorporating that."

Taylor will be asking the board to postpone approving the plan, but that request would have to be OK'd by the province.

"The time frame is just very short, the whole process," said local parent Sean Vishnu. "There's just a lack of transparency of how the schools are being chosen."

The draft capital plan follows the provincial announcement of nine new and replacement schools planned for suburban communities in southeast, northwest and northeast Calgary.

While two elementary schools have been slated for southeast Calgary, some parents who live there have been waiting for a new middle school for years and say they're extremely disappointed their area is not being considered a higher priority.

The announcement was just part of the Redford government's pledge for $503 million over three years for new schools in Alberta’s high-growth communities.