Wolf Creek Public Schools’ board of trustees has approved its three-year capital plan, but many people may be wondering a few things from a statement like that. What is a capital plan? What does it mean? How are priorities determined? And, does that mean my community is getting a new school or upgrades to my school?
I want to take some time in this column to try and answer these questions.
A three-year capital plan is developed to address the modernization needs of the existing school facilities operated by the Board as well as the need for new or replacement school facilities. There are five project drivers considered: health and safety, building condition, enrolment pressures, functionality and programming, and legal. The drivers are reviewed for each school and prioritized based on high need, medium to high need and medium need.
Including outreach and colony schools, Wolf Creek Public Schools has 30 schools across the school division in and around nine central Alberta communities. We are fortunate in our division that we have an excellent facilities team that takes exceptional care of our schools. Their tireless work helps keep our facilities in great shape to best serve students, staff and our school communities.
There are two schools that although well maintained, meet that need for replacement, and thus top the Three Year Capital Plan. At the top of the list is Iron Ridge Elementary Campus (IREC) in Blackfalds, followed by École J.S McCormick School (JSM) in Lacombe.
When comparing the need with other schools throughout our communities, be it in Ponoka, Rimbey, Alix, Bluffton or so on, IREC in Blackfalds has been on our capital plans for about 18 years. It is a kindergarten to Grade 3 school with a capacity for 505 students, including four modulars. The school has passionate staff and committed and dedicated families that make the school a great place to learn and grow. But, the facility tops the capital plan because it shows four of the five project markers needing to be addressed. The school is 36 to 70 years old, as parts are from the original build in 1949, and other sections are from additions from 1958 to 1983 and modulars added in the past nine years. Combined with growth projections for Blackfalds, IREC is in need of a replacement school.
You may wonder, if a new school is needed then why not build one? School divisions develop their capital plans and submit them to the Alberta government. It is the Alberta government that ultimately decides which school divisions and which communities get a new school or a modernization to an existing school. This is because the Alberta government are the ones that fund the building of schools across the province. Recently the government announced this year’s list of schools that will be moved forward for construction or modernization next. Unfortunately IREC or JSM didn’t make that list.
As a board, we create the capital plan, and then we continue to advocate for these needs to MLAs, to Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure. We will continue to do that as we work toward addressing not only the emergent needs outlined in the three year capital plan, but all our schools and the needs we have also identified in our greater 10-year Capital Plan. The full three-year capital plan can be viewed on our website at wolfcreek.ab.ca.
Luci Henry is the board chair of Wold Creek Public Schools.