After more than a decade of advocacy from parents and community leaders, construction on the long-awaited North Calgary public high school is set to begin in January 2021.
On Friday, the government of Alberta announced Bird Construction, a Calgary-based construction company, was awarded the bid to build the school.
“Now during Christmas time, it’s a good time to share some good news after quite the challenging year combatting the pandemic,” Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda told Global News on Monday.
Panda said Bird’s experience in building projects like the high school was what awarded them the contract.
Parents have advocated for the school’s construction in Coventry Hills in the city’s northeast for the past 15 years.
“This is action… It’s not just talk, things are actually going to start happening,” chair of Advocates for North Calgary High School Kasia Gajewska said. “It was a very positive, very exciting call.”
It’s the biggest step towards construction since November 2019, when the province announced the North Calgary High School was one of 15 schools that would receive $397 million in funding for construction, design work and renovations.
According to Panda, construction of the school is set to be complete sometime in 2023, barring no complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic in its first year of construction.
Once it’s open, the school will service the communities of Hidden Valley, Coventry Hills, Panorama Hills, Harvest Hills, Country Hills and Country Hills Village.
According to the province, the school’s capacity will be 1,800 students. The Calgary Board of Education has said that Grades 10 and 11 will be the first classes at the school, which would allow Grade 12 students to graduate at their current high school.
Currently, public school students in the area take public transit to John Diefenbaker High School and Crescent Heights High School, which parents said could result in more than an hour-long commute both ways.
“They will not have to spend all their time on the bus to get to or from school,” Gajewska said. “They will be able to have that extra time to spend on their extra-curricular activities, at home with siblings, or even having jobs in the neighbourhood.”
Ward 3 city councillor Jyoti Gondek said she also faced the same challenges sending her kids off to schools outside the neighbourhood.
“For my kids’ entire school career, I wish there had been opportunities locally, and now there will be,” Gondek said. “Kids can walk to school, bike to school, it’s going to be such a gamechanger.”
The investment in the school’s construction sends a clear message to residents in north-central Calgary neighbourhoods, Gondek said, as many people in the area feel overlooked by multiple levels of government.
“We’ve got all kinds of problems with connectivity in our communities because people forgot about us,” Gondek said. “Getting this high school really is a signal that you’re not forgotten, yes it took forever, but it is coming.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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