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Province announces Comp replacement, St. Patrick modernization

It’s official: the province has announced a much needed replacement for the Composite High School and the modernization of St. Patrick Catholic School. The projects are two of 26 included in Alberta’s 2017 budget for $500 million.

Getting a replacement for the Comp has been at the top of the Grande Prairie Public School District’s wish list for several years to manage the city’s quickly growing population. Superintendent Sandy McDonald was in Spruce Grove for the announcement, and says they don’t know many details of the new facility other than where it will be built.

“It’s to our advantage that we have a site that’s so close by and we can begin construction and won’t interfere with any of our operations. There are three empty lots on the same block as the Rising Above facility just a little bit across the road and to the southwest of the school.”

Since they’ll need some extra field space for the new two storey school, McDonald says they’re working with the City of Grande Prairie to make sure they’re not taking away from any needed recreation space on the municipal reserve. They’re also looking at possibilities for redeveloping to existing school and its site in Avondale.

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The school district had applied for 1,600 student school with room to grow to 2,000. Premier Rachel Notley says almost all of the school projects will see construction start in 2018, and be done by 2021, but the local facility could be finished earlier.

Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools has also been pushing hard for a modernization at St. Patrick’s for years. Superintendent Karl Germann says it will include more core space and a new gym comparable in size to the one at Holy Cross School.

“And then they’re going to put a foods lab in and a variety of other facilities so the kids in that neighbourhood will be entitled to any other programming that kids in newer neighbourhoods receive in the new schools.”

He adds that the capacity will be reduced by about 10 students to 400, but having the structure completely redone will improve the quality of learning. Germann says the renovations will include demolishing part of the current school, completely redoing all of the classrooms, and fixing some of its mold issues underneath.

Now that this project is officially underway, the Catholic school board’s focus will switch to pressuring the provincial government for another 900 student elementary school to handle enrolment growth.

“The community is a really young community and we need to keep creating those spaces all around the city. Our current high schools will open as 8 to 12’s and we can see them changing over time to 9 to 12’s or maybe even 10 to 12. You’ve got to keep being flexible and keep moving things around.”

It’s expected high school grades will need to be adjusted in the next five years. St. John Paul II Junior-Senior Catholic High School should open in September 2018, which is when the modernization of St. Kateri should be done. That follows the Public School District’s K-8 Roy Bickell School opening this September, and Peace Wapiti School Division’s Whispering Ridge Community School for K-8 students in January 2018.

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