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New schools needed to keep pace with growth: CBE

Keeping pace with increasing school enrolment will require six to seven new schools per year, says Calgary's public school board.

Revising an estimate he made in October, Calgary Board of Education (CBE) Superintendent of Facilities and Environmental Services Frank Coppinger said growing student populations are taking their toll on the city's already overcrowded classrooms.

"I now believe we need six to seven new schools, not five to six," he said.

"The numbers we expect to arrive here in Calgary is more than we anticipated a month ago."

Last month, Coppinger said the city would need five to six new schools built annually to keep up with growth.

Issuing an update on the board's capital projects Wednesday, Coppinger said 3,737 new students were enrolled in CBE schools this year, mainly in Grades 1 through 6. At a current enrollment of 114,500, Calgary's public schools sit at 86% space utilization.

Well over a third of CBE schools in Calgary are over 90% utilization, he said, with 32 schools over 100% capacity.

Students enrolled in alternative programs topped out at 22,914 students this year, he said, representing an increase of 1,629 over last year.

With hints of austerity looming in light of falling oil prices, Coppinger said the board has been in contact with the province to ensure funding levels remain the same.

"I think we're all concerned," he said. "We do hope the reduction in revenue to the province will not impact the approval of funds to complete the schools in Calgary."

‹In order to take the strain off bulging classrooms, the province announced in September the construction of four "starter schools," clusters of modular classrooms that lack many facilities found in complete schools, with a promise of permanent buildings at a later date. Rather than these temporary measures, Coppinger said the board prefers to see construction of complete facilities instead.

"It's more economic, and the demand is such for student accommodation," he said. "We would prefer to see those new schools built, in total, from day one."

The four new schools, reported to cost $30.6 million, will be built in Cranston, Saddleridge, West Springs/Cougar Ridge and Aspen Woods.

Construction of the starter schools will begin next year if commitments from the province to fund complete facilities aren't received by next March.

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