Edmonton’s public school board has revealed widespread changes to catchment areas in many of the city’s schools in an attempt to solve overcrowding problems at 11 schools in suburban neighbourhoods.
The restructuring comes at a time when Edmonton is seeing massive growth, 46 new neighbourhoods with 11,000 students in less than a decade, said Lorne Parker, managing director of Edmonton Public Schools.
“These initiatives are designed to provide relief to those schools, to ensure that we don’t go over capacity, that we will be able to provide students with a learning environment that is healthy, that is safe, that isn’t in the hallways and gymnasiums,” he said.
Starting in September, many suburban schools will change the neighbourhoods that they pull students from, meaning some areas of the city will be assigned to different schools.
Parker says that, in most cases, current students will be be grandfathered in, allowing them to stay within their current school. However, he says those students will no longer be eligible for bus transportation.
Although the changes affect about 6,000 students, a few hundred will end up switching schools.
One program will be closed -- the junior high Logos program at Winterburn school will end and reopen at Britannia School. Students in the elementary program will be moved to the existing program at Youngstown School. The change affects about 200 students.
About 93 students at A. Blair McPherson and 354 at Michael Strembitsky will have to attend new schools this fall, depending on what neighbourhood they live in.
Elementary students who live in the Windemere North and South neighbourhoods have been moved from the Brander Gardens attendance area and will go to McKee School, on 51st Avenue, just east of Southgate Mall, a 60-minute bus ride away.
The school board says that the changes were made after public consultations that began in January. Parker says even with the changes, Edmonton needs new schools to be built and that future growth will have to be carefully managed.
Windemere resident Angela Meier has two young children. She hopes that two new schools announced for her neighbourhood will be completed by the time they are old enough to go to school.
"If they’re not built in time, we might consider bringing our kids to school somewhere closer to where I work as opposed to putting my five-year-old on the bus for 60 minutes," she said. "That’s just too long.”
Meier says this is the third time the school catchment area has changed for Windermere.
“It’s kind of frustrating, as a parent.”
Bessie Nichols is one of the schools where current students and their siblings can continue to attend, a relief for Stephanie Krebs, whose children are in Grades 1 and 3.
“I did not want to have to move my children. I did not want to have to tell them ‘I’m sorry, honey, you’re going to have to move schools,'" she said.
“When they first found out the news, they didn’t sleep. They cried.”
Krebs was part of a group of parents who lobbied to keep the children at the school, located in the Hamptons neighbourhood. She says they circulated a petition, wrote letters and even met with a deputy minister.
Krebs moved to the area because her old neighbourhood didn't have a school. While she feels terrible for parents whose children will have to switch, Krebs is relieved her children will remain close to school.
“For us it was really exciting to have them go to school that I can actually bike ride to. Walk them to school," she said.
Krebs feels the province isn't building enough schools to keep up with Edmonton's population growth.