The Peace Wapiti Public School Division is looking to relieve enrollment pressures on some schools projected to reach their maximum capacity within the next three years.

Deputy Superintendent Darren Young says among the division’s capital priorities, include a new K-8 school, and a replacement for the Peace Wapiti Academy in the Clairmont area, as well as a new 9-12 high school located east of the City of Grande Prairie.

Young says the division is running out of options to keep pace with the rapid enrollment growth being experienced.

“We’ve formally requested four modular [units] for Whispering Ridge Community School, and two for Peace Wapiti Academy. We’ve also requested four to replace the older modular [units] at Beaverlodge Elementary School, however, our top priority are the four [units] for WRCS.”

“At that point, if we receive those [units] and they’re attached, we will not have room for any additional [units] at that site. That school will be as big as we can physically make it at that point,” he says.

According to Young, the growth rate at WRCS has averaged above 10 per cent annually for the three years it’s been open, something he describes as “astronomical.” He adds while the current occupation of the school is not unmanageable, it’s approaching its cap much faster than was originally projected.

“Alberta Education deems a school full when it’s at 85 per cent utilization. Currently, we have one school that is above that; Whispering Ridge Community School is at 90.5 per cent utilization rate right now and we expect that to grow over the next few years,” he says.

The current PWA, currently sitting at 79.2 per cent utilization, is also expected to reach capacity by 2023. Young says constructing a new, replacement school will not only accommodate a larger student body, but it will also shorten bus ride times for county students, as they won’t be travelling to the middle of the city.

“We think that relocating our school to the county will be better for our county students in terms of bus rides and allow us to expand our facility to accommodate the anticipated growth of that student body.”

On the flip side, following the construction of the new PWA in the county, the old facility will be turned over to one of the neighbouring school districts, as dictated by Alberta Education.