New high school planned for Sylvan Lake

Increasing demographics, program changes and economic growth motivate the initiative

Sylvan Lake’s H.J. Cody High School. (File photo)

Sylvan Lake’s H.J. Cody High School. (File photo)

The plan to build a new high school in Sylvan Lake is gaining traction.

“It has been a desire of both the board and the community for quite a few years to get a new high school in Sylvan Lake,” said Shawn Russell, associate superintendent of corporate services for Chinook’s Edge School Division No 73.

“According to the size of Sylvan Lake, we feel the need for a new modern high school to meet the needs of the students in our community.”

Upon the completion of a new high school, the H. J. Cody High School is targeted to become a middle school.

“We are still a number of years out from a new school in our community, but it’s promising to us all that we are one of the top priorities of the district and look forward to working with our school trustees to advocate for the need,” said Mayor Megan Hanson.

A new high school in Sylvan Lake is second on Chinook’s Edge School Division’s priority list, following the development of a middle school in Penhold. The design funding for Penhold Middle School was awarded this year.

Project initiation for the new Sylvan Lake high school will depend on provincial funding announcements upon the completion of the Penhold school.

Increasing demographics, program changes and economic growth are key factors motivating the new high school.

“Technology studies and the learning spaces required have changed dramatically over the past few decades. With some modernization, we’ve been able to adapt to the current space we have. But, it’s not comparable to what you could do if you had a blank slate and we are building a new building to accommodate those needs,” said Russell.

The board plans to swap the typical library space with a learning commons area approach for the new high school building, among other advancements.

By predicting the future as much as possible, the school board strives to “build spaces that are flexible to accommodate not only the needs of today but the needs 10 to 20 years from now.”

The H. J. Cody High School, built in 1957, is currently running at about an 86 percent utilization rate. The school has a total strength of approximately 750 students and a capacity of 871 students.

With the current growth estimations for Sylvan Lake in the upcoming years, the school board anticipates H. J. Cody High School to be slightly over capacity by the school year 2024-2025.

Chinook’s Edge School Division has an average classroom size of 26 at the high school level.

The board hopes to work with the town on potential partnerships around the development of a new high school and make the space available for community use as well.