Brycen Pieroway

Brycen Pieroway

Construction of new 500 student school announced for Sylvan

A new Kindergarten to Grade 8 school for 500 students will be built in Beacon Hill subdivision over the next two years.

A new Kindergarten to Grade 8 school for 500 students will be built in Beacon Hill subdivision over the next two years.

Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson selected Grade 5 student Brycen Pieroway to make the official announcement during ceremonies at C. P. Blakely School last Wednesday.

Johnson had earlier met the student in his classroom and had a discussion with him about what he was learning.

The school will be “built as soon as we can get organized, get plans finalized and shovels in the ground,” Johnson said. The planned opening date is for the 2016-17 school year, although Johnson said that’s a pretty ambitious target.

While he declined to announce a cost, he said similar schools have been in the range of $12-$20 million, depending on when they’re built and how they’re tendered.

Announcement of the new school is part of a promise made by Premier Alison Redford during the last election campaign to build 50 new schools and modernize 70 others.

“On behalf of the premier I announce a new elementary junior high school for Sylvan Lake,” said Pieroway.

Colleen Butler, chairperson of the Chinook’s Edge School Division board of trustees said “rapid growth in Sylvan Lake has put a lot of pressure on all schools here, has created challenges. Libraries and staff rooms have been turned into classrooms.

“The announcement is very welcome. It will enable us to carry forth with some of the great programs this community is known for,” she said.

In the meantime, four more portable classrooms will be added to C. P. Blakely School to handle the growth, Butler said. They’ll be in place for the opening of school this fall. While other schools are also near capacity, C. P. Blakely is the school where it’s easiest to add classrooms.

The capacity of the school is technically 380 students, but they’ve got 450 students there now, said Johnson.

Asked about partnerships with the town or post-secondary institutions in additional elements for schools or for their use, Johnson said, “we’re pushing school boards to do that right across the province. We want to make the most use of all the community infrastructure, be busy as much of every day as possible.”

“With bright, open spaces and through the use of natural light and advanced ventilation systems that enhance air quality and circulation, this new school will benefit students and teachers by providing healthy learning and working environments,” said a press release about Sylvan’s new school. “In addition to conventional classrooms, spaces for informal, project-based and collaborative learning are also components of the new facility.”

Johnson described the announcement as “exciting”.

“One of the best parts of my job is I get to travel around, make announcements, get into the schools.” He said he’s nearing the end of announcements on the list of 120 they promised to do which entails a “substantial capital plan”.

His department will work with Alberta Infrastructure which will be responsible for planning, tendering, scoping.

Johnson noted it was fitting to make the announcement at C. P. Blakely School, a school named for a former school board trustee who worked to get a new school in the community.

He also referred to “my friend Luke Ouellette who still bugs me about getting schools for Sylvan Lake”.

Reference to Afghanistan and the remarkable change in education there since Canadians got involved, was part of Johnson’s speech. “When we first went over there, there were one million kids in school. Now there are five million kids and one million of them are girls.”

He indicated that Alberta is going to be honouring Canadian soldiers with a flag lowering ceremony at schools and municipalities across the province on Mar. 12 to mark the end of Canada’s 12-year military mission in Afghanistan.

“We want to do something special in all schools commemorating the incredible work Albertans and Canadians have done overseas.”