St. Martin de Porres High School (SMdP) is officially getting the much-needed upgrade and expansion it needs to accommodate a growing population of Catholic high school students in Airdrie.
On Aug. 16, education minister Adriana LaGrange, infrastructure minister Prasad Panda, associate minister of natural gas and electricity Dale Nally, Airdrie-East MLA Angela Pitt and numerous trustees representing the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) gathered in the home gymnasium of the Kodiaks to formally confirm the funding announcement of $40 million, which will be used to modernize and expand SMdP in the coming years.
“This major modernization will be like having a new school here,” LaGrange said. “It is just so needed, and I know it will be so appreciated.”
LaGrange took the opportunity to thank the CCSD for their commitment to the project and highlighted the work of board trustee and vice-chair Linda Wellman, who represents wards 3 and 5, as well as Airdrie’s four CCSD schools. She said Wellman and Pitt were both instrumental in advocating for SMdP to receive the funds.
“We were very excited as a community to be informed [in March 2021] of a funding commitment of $40 million,” Wellman said.
The project will see the construction of an additional section as well as an overall modernization of the existing building. There are 13 other school projects going ahead in the province as part of the 2021 capital budget allotment of $268 million, according to LaGrange.
“I’m always excited when I get to announce a new school,” she said.
Pitt echoed the education minister’s sentiment, adding upgrades to SMdP are and necessary for Airdrie’s Catholic high school students.
“It’s awesome to see our government stepped up to the plate to figure out how to get this project done with the Calgary Catholic School Division,” she said.
According to Wellman, SMdP’s existing building was built in 1998 to accommodate Airdrie’s Catholic students from Kindergarten to Grade 9. As the number of high-school-aged students grew along with the city’s population, the structure was converted to work as a 9-12 school.
Wellman said the utilization of the school is currently at 99 per cent, with approximately 800 students attending SMdP. She said the school will be able to accommodate approximately 1,200 students once the upgrades are complete. The school is set to surpass a 130 per cent utilization rate in the next five years, according to the CCSD.
Airdrie’s public school division – Rocky View Schools (RVS) – also submitted project proposals to be considered for 2021 budget funding, none of which were chosen. The priority projects for RVS included a new K-9 school in Airdrie, a K-5 school in Cochrane and the expansion of Bow Valley High School, also in Cochrane.
LaGrange said although every school division submits considerations for capital projects every year, successful candidates are chosen based on level of priority. She elaborated prioritization could be related to growing enrolment, health concerns or legal issues.
“Ideally, I’d love to address all of them, but there is only so many funds and so we work to ensure that the top priorities get dealt with as soon as possible,” she said.
As the SMdP project is still in the planning stages, a start and end date for when construction will take place have yet to be set, according to a press release from the Alberta government.