Despite plunging oil prices, Education Minister Gordon Dirks says all of the 50 news schools and 20 modernizations announced for Alberta are moving ahead as scheduled.

During a visit to Grande Prairie Tuesday, he argued that education is still a top priority for the government.

“Oil goes up and oil goes down, but the children need schools. Our province continues to see increased population growth; increased enrolment. We have a tremendous backlog of schools that are needing to be built.”

Nine of those projects are planned for the Grande Prairie region, with many scheduled to be open in 2016.

GP – Smoky MLA Everett McDonald says several tenders have already been awarded.

While in the Swan City, Dirks also met with the superintendents of northern Alberta school divisions.

He says he was impressed by the schools he toured and the students he met in Grande Prairie, especially when it comes to creating learning experiences that are tied to the community.

“A broad range of things that they’re doing out in the community that benefit students in terms of their skill sets, in terms of their knowledge acquisition, in terms of their volunteer experience.”

He also heard that school board representatives are interested in seeing a change to the way diploma exams are weighted, and would like to see them reduced from 50 per cent of a student’s final grade.