2 new Edmonton Catholic schools funded, Edmonton Public Schools shut out of new infrastructure funding

There was no funding for the Edmonton Public School Board in the province's capital plan that was announced Friday. The province committed more than $250 million in funding for school projects around Alberta, including two new school for the Edmonton Catholic Schools

Public division expects to be at capacity by 2027

A classroom inside an Edmonton school. (David Bajer/CBC)

For a second year, Edmonton Public Schools has been shut out of the province's school capital funding plan. 

Alberta's education minister announced funding for 15 new school infrastructure projects across the province on Friday, with spending totalling around $251 million. While Edmonton Catholic Schools will see two new schools funded, Edmonton Public Schools was left out. 

"We've made it very clear to the minister, both through our advocacy and through our meetings with her, that the need is acute in Edmonton public schools," said Edmonton public school board chair Trisha Estabrooks. 

She says the district is at capacity in most of their high schools and are operating at 80 per cent capacity overall. 

Edmonton Public School Board chair, Trisha Estabrooks, reacts to the provincial funding announcement on Friday. (CBC News/Zoom)

"That's really high," Estabrooks said.

"If we do not receive an announcement about a new school we will be completely out of space in all our schools by 2027." 

There were two new schools announced for the Edmonton Catholic School Board. One will be a new high school in the Castle Downs/Dunluce area, which had design funding announced in 2021.  The Lewis Farms neighbourhood will see a new elementary and junior high school built.

"We are extremely thankful for these schools, both of which are critically needed to ease significant enrolment pressures in north and west Edmonton," said Catholic board chair Sandra Palazzo in a news release. "Our current schools in those areas are overcrowded and students will benefit from vibrant new learning spaces to accommodate growing communities."

Education Minister Adriana Lagrange said the public board's first priority was upgrading Delton School ,which is currently operating around 70 per cent capacity. When the province's metrics were applied there was no funding for Edmonton public. 

"I was surprised," said Lagrange.

"I'm instructing my department to work with [Edmonton Public Schools] to look at their prioritization of projects to perhaps look at placing schools where there is growth."

Funding requests

School boards submit just one list of projects they would like funded, but Estabrooks wants to see that separated into two: one for new build requirements and another for upgrade and maintenance requests. 

Estabrooks is also concerned about what she called "a lack of clarity." 

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced funding for 15 school projects Friday. (Mike Symington/CBC)

"In previous years the province has looked at our list, has seen that our greatest enrolment pressure might be number three or number four on the list and that's the one they fund," she said. 

Estabrooks said it's difficult for a large city that includes new growing communities as well as mature areas with schools requiring maintenance, like Delton School.

Spruce Avenue School was second on the list – also a mature school in need of modernization. 

A new junior high school for the northeast part of the city was number three on the Edmonton Public Schools' list.

New ideas

The lack of new school funding for Edmonton public did not surprise Mable Chan-Simons. 

Her daughter is still waiting to see if she will have to go through a lottery process to try and secure a spot at Lillian Osbourne school in the Terwillegar neighborhood. 

Edmonton public students have until April 14th to register for the upcoming school year. After that, the school will be able to determine if the lottery is needed. 

Mable Chan-Simons 14-year-old daughter hopes to attend the nearby Lillian Osborne School when she starts Grade 10 in the fall. (Mable Chan-Simons)

If her daughter can't attend Lillian Osbourne, which is within walking distance of their home, she will be faced with a lengthy bus ride or will be carpooling with her parents as they head to work in the morning.

Chan-Simons wants to see more proactive planning for both modernization projects and new builds. But she is also calling on the board to start to look for alternative plans like portable classrooms for additional space. 

"What you're saying is that you're accepting the lottery as a solution," she said.

"You need to come up with some creative solutions … you can't control the province."