Alberta's premier darted across the province Tuesday, announcing new schools to help cope with the province's booming student population.
Premier Ed Stelmach announced the construction or renovation of 35 schools at a cost of $550 million. The schools should be ready by 2014 and it's important to start building while borrowing costs are still low, Stelmach said.
"We're building when the time is right," he said. "Prices will be increasing – steel prices, concrete prices. We've got to get construction in the ground. I don't want to lose another season."
The premier attended a rally at Airdrie's George McDougall High School in the morning, then headed north to Beaumont's École Coloniale Estates School for an afternoon announcement. He was set to wrap up his tour in Fort McMurray at Holy Trinity School in the early evening.
In the next decade, 100,000 students will be added to the provincial system, bringing the total to 700,000.
All of the new and "replacement" schools are going into smaller communities in Alberta, with Airdrie and Red Deer each getting three new schools, while Beaumont, Jasper and Fort McMurray each get two new schools.
Bawlf, Brooks, Chestermere, Cochrane, Gift Lake, Grande Prairie, Lac La Biche, Medicine Hat, Penhold and Two Hills are getting one new school each.
Calgary and Edmonton aren't getting any new schools, although the province's largest cities will each see two schools renovated.
Some of the construction will be funded by public-private partnerships, which should save the province at least 10 per cent over "traditional procurement methods," provincial officials said. Schools will be owned and operated by school boards, but the private partner will maintain the schools for the first 30 years.
Some of the funding for the builds is coming from the provincial government's capital plan.
The announcement was bitter sweet for Airdrie-Chestermere Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, whose riding is getting four new schools:
- A 400 student kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Airdrie to serve the Greater Southern Public Francophone Education Region.
- A Grade 6 to 8 school for 900 students in Airdrie.
- A Grade 9 to 12 school for 1,200 students in Airdrie.
- A kindergarten to Grade 9 school for 900 students in Chestermere.
In a statement Anderson said while he's ecstatic about the new schools, they are long overdue.
"These schools are critically needed and should have been announced during the school announcements of 2008 before the last provincial election. However, it is always better to admit and correct a mistake than to continue to play politics with the future of our children's education," he wrote.