In an effort to address overcrowding at schools in Airdrie and Cochrane, Rocky View Schools (RVS) will apply for 13 modular units from Alberta Education this fall.
At an RVS Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 22, Director of Facility Planning Colette Winter said the division requires 21 modular units, which would be installed at Bow Valley High School (BVHS) and Manachaban Middle School (MMS) in Cochrane and Bert Church High School (BCHS) and W.H. Croxford High School in Airdrie.
“These are the schools that [the planning department] sees as having the greatest need for modular units,” she said. “All of them are expected to be at more than 100 per cent utilization next year, even with these units being put onto them.”
BHVS is most in need of space, according to Winter. She said the school’s enrolment – known as its utilization rate – is currently at 107 per cent capacity, but is projected to reach 119 per cent next year. BVHS requires seven additional portables to accommodate student growth.
“We also know Bow Valley has been going on this trend for some time," she said. "There's absolutely a need for some modulars and space at BVHS."
In Airdrie, BCHS is operating at 109 per cent utilization, Winter said, and is expected to reach 114 per cent next year despite no longer taking in graduating students from Heron’s Crossing School.
“It’s just the growth of southeast Airdrie – Ravenswood, King's Heights and those areas,” she said, adding BCHS needs six modular units.
On the west side of Airdrie, W.H. Croxford’s utilization rate is currently at 101 per cent, according to Winter, but is projected to reach 109 per cent in 2021. Once Croxford is at 109 per cent, she said it will require four modular units.
“We just have more Grade 9 [students] entering that school than Grade 12 [students] leaving that school, and that’s going to continue along on this trend,” she said.
MMS is at 93 per cent, projecting a rate of 115 per cent next year. That influx of students means the school needs four units. The increase is due to RVS' decision to change accommodation boundaries and grade structures in Cochrane, Winter said.
"We pulled some students out of RancheView School and we put them into the elementary and middle schools in Cochrane," she said. "One of the results is that Manachaban [needs] more space."
To reduce the number of modular units the district would need to apply for, Winter said RVS might be able to relocate eight existing portable classrooms and one modular bathroom unit. She said the modular units are currently at Indus School, Prince of Peace School and the old Westbrook School.
However, she said doing so would require Alberta Education's permission, as most of RVS' modular units are government-owned assets.
At the meeting, trustees voiced their concerns about the rapid student growth at the four schools.
"It looks like we're putting our thumb in a dam, with Bow Valley, and hoping the water not to drown us all," said Ward 1 Trustee Shali Baziuk said. "Even with these units, if we're still at least at 100 per cent utilization, and we're full, it's hard to contemplate paying for a link to attach four [modular units] when what we really want is an expansion of that school. It just really highlights the need to have this expansion approved at Bow Valley, because all we're doing is shuffling the deck and trying to balance it."
Winter said even if RVS received approval for an expansion of BVHS immediately, it would still be at least three years before the expansion was complete, emphasizing the need for modular units as a temporary solution.
Trustees ultimately voted unanimously to submit applications for 13 additional modular units and to relocate eight modular classrooms and one bathroom unit.