After the Alberta Government’s decision to scrap the P3 funding model, 19 of the 50 new schools announced by the government last year could be delayed.
The new school slated for Blackfalds is one of them.
Larry Jacobs, superintendent for Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) said that, issues regarding cost and funding aside, the biggest concern in the wake of the announcement is lost time.
“The biggest worry for us now is that the process has to restart to some degree,” said Jacobs.
He added it is of paramount importance the school be open in time to deal with new students for the 2016–2017 school year.
“We need to have that building in Blackfalds open for the fall of 2016,” said Jacobs. “We can’t afford to be late.”
At this point, Jacobs said WCPS’s first objectives are finding out how far back in the process last week’s announcement has set this project and whether or not they can still complete the project on schedule.
“Hopefully we have enough time,” said Jacobs. “If we have to go an extra year, that poses a whole bunch of new challenges for us.”
Not the least of which, Jacobs said, is figuring out if the existing WCPS schools will have the capacity for the new students.
Like Jacobs, Blackfalds Mayor Melodie Stol said she is disappointed not so much that the P3 model has been scrapped, but that abandoning that model equates to lost time.
“We’ve already spent 14 months working toward this P3 model,” said Stol. “Whether I like or dislike P3 doesn’t matter.”
Stol added that she was surprised when the school was first announced last spring that it would not be open until 2016.
Now that it could be delayed one whole year, Stol is even more disheartened. “I’m beyond disappointed.”
On the plus side, Stol said everything the community needs to get in order for the school’s construction to go ahead, such as land availability and road improvements, is taken care of.
“As a community, we are prepared.”
Stol also shared Jacobs’ feelings in that she is concerned what will happen to Blackfalds’ up and coming students if the school is not ready in time.
“We have too many kids to wait. We don’t even know where we will put them.”
Stol went on to say Blackfalds is a growing community with many choosing to make it their home.
She also said for most families, schools are the first contact they have to the community.
While Stol did say that many people, including some members of the current council, did not think the P3 model was the best path to take, she is concerned less about how the project will be paid for and more about getting it done.
“It’s beyond my scope of reason that we are 14 months after the announcement and we don’t have a shovel in the ground,” said Stol.
“Let’s get it done.”
Jacobs said that, at this point, there are possibly two options to get the new school built.
Either Alberta Infrastructure could get involved and build it, or WCPS could go back to the old method of going through an RFP process of design, build and tender to have it constructed.
However, Jacobs added it is too early to know which option will be used.