Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 22, 1999
Plan calls for school closures
Edmonton board seeks community input before decisions are made
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Details of an extensive review of Edmonton's Catholic schools, including possible closure of four elementary schools, were made public Feb. 16.
The Educational Facilities Master Plan 2007, received by the Catholic board almost a year ago, recommends total closure of St. Andrew, St. Gerard, St. James and St. Michael schools in central and north Edmonton.
Students would be transferred to nearby Catholic schools.
The report also recommends partial closure of St. Alphonsus, St. Brendan, St. Gabriel, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Edmund schools.
Board chair Ron Zapisocki says he has been busy answering parents' questions since the report was released.
"Any time you name schools, parents are concerned. But how can you address facilities and utilization without naming schools?"
Zapisocki says the report provides a "snapshot" of the facilities, utilization and capital needs of the district for the next 10 years.
He adds that when the board received the report, "we decided we needed something closer to home; we needed to look at the principles that underlie any decision on school closure and capital needs."
As a result, school principal George Santarossa was seconded to prepare a second report which would not only deal with the physical adequacy and utilization of school buildings, but also on "achieving the greatest possible presence within our community and in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church (evangelization)."
That report, the Facilities Utilization Review, was completed recently and released along with the master plan on Feb. 16.
Both reports were received as information by the board, which then approved a timeline for discussion, input from school administration and parents, and identification of issues.
Draft policies and recommendations are expected to be completed by April 30, but Zapisocki says any decisions on school closures "are a long way off."
"I can't see us closing any schools for Sept. 1, unless we find out from a school community that they want to do this," he says.
"A major part of the process is to find out from school communities what they see as a Catholic school presence in their community.
"School closure is always an option if it best serves Catholic education in Edmonton," he says, adding that the board is also considering other options, such as leasing out space in under-utilized buildings.
Zapisocki says the board has known for some time that the district's facility utilization rate was too low. In fact, the master plan states the current utilization rate is 64.7 per cent, well below the 85 per cent Alberta Education requires before granting money for new capital projects.
The report also indicates that if all recommendations are followed, including total and partial closures and relocation of portables from under-utilized to over-utilized schools, 3,800 student places will be reduced by the year 2007, for a utilization rate of 72 per cent.
As well as improving the utilization rate by five to eight per cent, the plan suggests other benefits would be greater equity among schools and better provision for specialized learning and teaching needs.
As well as looking at overall utilization, the master plan evaluates the physical condition of each of the 82 school buildings in the city of Edmonton, and assesses each school's "functional adequacy" - its ability to deliver current and future education programs.
Results indicate that while school buildings average a score of 62.6 out of 100 for physical (mechanical, electrical, and structural) conditions, there is a large gap between the high and low-scoring schools.
Thirty school buildings are identified as needing extensive capital improvements. Based on enrolment projections, the report recommends a new primary school in southeast Edmonton, with a core capacity for 250 students.
Parents will have a chance to ask questions and respond to the report at a public meeting Feb. 22 at the St. Peter Adult Education Centre, 7330-113 St., at 7:30 p.m.