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Petition highlighting overcrowding concerns at north Calgary schools

The parent council from a Calgary school has launched an online petition over concerns the facility won’t be able to withstand unprecedented enrollment growth.

Valley Creek School, located on Hidden Valley Drive, services students in Grade 4 to 9 and has a total enrollment listed on the CBE’s website of 755 students (as of Sept. 30).

Shelley Wiart, a member of the Valley Creek School Parent Council, has launched an online petition calling on Calgary-Beddington MLA Amanda Chapman to lobby Alberta’s UCP government for enhance educational funding, among other requests.

“We are compelled to address urgent issues severely impacting our students’ quality of education,” Wiart says in the petition, which was launched on behalf of the parent council.

“Our communities are experiencing unprecedented enrollment growth, significantly increasing class sizes and straining our resources.”

Wiart says this year alone, the school expanded its boundaries to include the newly developed neighbourhood of Ambleton, yet the expansion “was not met with corresponding increases in funding or capital infrastructure.”

“Our schools are vibrant hubs with students speaking over 40 languages. Many of these students are English as Additional Language (EAL) learners who arrived without the ability to speak English. Yet, the provision of necessary learning resources such as Educational Assistants (EA) has not kept pace with this complexity. As a result, the school board’s capacity to provide a high-quality educational experience is being compromised.”

The petition is also urging Chapman to push the UCP for infrastructure upgrades, support for mental health and for public funds be devoted exclusively to public education rather than being diverted to private and charter schools.

For more information on the petition, you can visit Change.org.

North Trail High School concerns

The petition comes as concerns are also being raised about a nearby and brand new Calgary high school that is already projected to be over capacity.

Calgary’s North Trail High School is located on Harvest Hills Boulevard, just seven kilometres away from Valley Creek School.

North Trail opened to Grade 10 and 11 students for the 2023-24 school year, with the Grade 12 students expected to be welcomed for the 2024-25 school year.

However, a letter on the CBE’s website states North Trail is already projected to be over capacity for the 2024-25 school year, and won’t be able to accommodate all new students who live within the designated school boundary.

Instead, the CBE says overflow will be directed to Crescent Heights High School, 16 kilometres away.

One parent told CTV News she’s not overly shocked.

“We maintained from the beginning that this school will be full the day that it opens,” Tamara Keller said.

“We’ve had a couple of decades where we haven’t been building schools at the rate that we need.”

According to the Calgary Board of Education’s website, North Trail High School has a capacity of 1,800 students and is meant to service the communities of Coventry Hills, Country Hills, Country Hills Village, Harvest Hills, Panorama Hills and Hidden Valley.

And it’s not the only overflowing facility.

More than 30 CBE schools are listed as overcapacity, as the board has brought in 13,000 students in the last two years.

That’s enough to fill more than 22 schools — but the last provincial budget only contained full construction funding for one.

There are more eventually anticipated, but the process is lengthy and sometimes announced builds aren’t ever completed.

“(North Trail High) school was originally on the capital plan 20 years ago when we purchased our home in 2006,” Keller said. “Now, there are two more high schools north of (North Trail) on the capital plan. My advice would be start advocating now if you don’t want to relive what we went through.”

Provincial response

Alberta’s Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides says additional help is coming, but wouldn’t commit to anything beyond the UCP government’s latest budget.

“We acknowledge that there’s some extraordinary pressure and we’re working as best as we can to increase funding to the right areas,” Nicolaides said.

“We’re absolutely committed to maintaining expenditures that are in line with our revenue. We don’t want to put ourselves in the situation where we begin to spend in deficit to be able to meet our operational needs as a province.”

Nicolaides also pointed out the province is currently spending more on the file than ever before.

But advocates argue that’s a bad faith argument — and that quality education is more important than any deficit.

“Alberta is the lowest funded per-student in all of Canada and we’re still growing,” Medeana Moussa with Support Our Students said. “Our schools are bursting at the seams and students are not getting the top-notch education we value.

“None of (the province’s) investment has actually matched that need.”

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