Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson has defended a decision to add a temporary gym to the modular classrooms for public students forced out of Calgary's flood-damaged Elbow Park School.

The gym and portables, which will be installed at Earl Grey School where the Elbow Park students will study once they are ready, cost just over $1 million and the portables about $4 million.

Critics say the decision is a waste of taxpayers' money, especially when students in flood-ravaged High River are crammed into makeshift classrooms while they await modular classrooms.

However, Johnson says the critics are shortsighted.

"These modular classrooms and this temporary gymnasium are pieces of infrastructure that we're going to be able to use for decades to come," Johnson said Wednesday.

"So the gym, for example, it's going to go on to that school so that students can have a place to do phys ed for the next two to three years and then after that we're going to be able to move it to other high-pressure areas where we've got enrolment pressures, whether it's in Calgary or other parts of the province."

Johnson said the Eugene Coste School where the Elbow Park students started the year is needed for a new student population next year.

Johnson said his department went to the school boards after the flooding and asked what they wanted.

"We needed to look for solutions and this [the portable gym] was the solution that came forward from the school board and the parent groups and this was their preferred option."