It may look like an empty field now, but soon it will be a bustling school filled with eager young minds.
On Oct. 17, representatives of the Town of Blackfalds, Wolf Creek Public Schools, the Alberta Legislative Assembly and the Government of Alberta gathered to unveil the site of what will be Blackfalds’ newest school, set to open in the fall of 2016.
The school is set to be built in the Cottonwood neighbourhood.
Larry Jacobs, superintendent for Wolf Creek Public Schools, said that the timing couldn’t be better for a new elementary school in Blackfalds. Jacobs said there is such an influx of young students, particularly in Grades K-3, that Wolf Creek and Blackfalds are currently unable to handle them all.
“We are facing a tremendous rise in population in the Blackfalds area,” said Jacobs. “The numbers are coming in so fast that we can’t handle that down the road in say two or three years.”
To meet this new need, a new school for Blackfalds was announced in the spring of this year. This new school will be built to a Grade K-6 configuration, but won’t necessarily be a K-6 school. Jacobs said this means that the school will be built to handle any grade configuration between those grades.
Jacobs added that the final configuration of the new school will probably be decided within the next year. He said it could end up a being a K-2 school or a K-3 school or any other configuration within the K-6 range.
At full capacity the new school will service 500 students, said Jacobs. He added that in he expects the school not to be completely full but running at “fairly efficient numbers” within the next three to four years.
Jacobs said the outlying ‘footprint’ for the school building was chosen quickly and at this point the majority of the interior design has been decided upon as well. He added these steps needed to be done quickly as Alberta Education wishes to ‘bundle’ several of the new schools being built in the province together so that they can tendered as one large contract, thereby saving time and cost.
While the rapid growth of Blackfalds and the influx of young students demonstrates a need for an elementary school, it doesn’t mean Blackfalds will be getting a high school anytime soon, said Jacobs.
He explained that when Alberta Education considers placing a new school in an area, it examines the whole region for what schools are available and how utilized they are.
That means if a school is under-utilized or still has a lot of capacity left, a new school won’t be put in the same region, even if students need a bit of a commute to get to existing schools.
Right now, Blackfalds’ neighbouring communities of Lacombe and Red Deer have enough capacity in their high schools to service the existing students in Blackfalds in the eyes of Alberta Education.
If a high school is in the future, it probably won’t be happening for about a decade.
Even if a new high school was to be placed in Blackfalds in the near future, there wouldn’t be a lot of students to fill it, said Jacobs.