Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 24, 2000
Elk Island agrees to shared school
Joint Sherwood Park facility 'makes logical sense,' says board chair
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholic students in northeast Sherwood Park may soon be sharing space with their public counterparts.
The Elk Island Catholic and public school boards have agreed to build a shared school, something their counterparts in Edmonton have refused to do.
"It makes logical sense for serving our particular community," said Catholic board chair Ken Lesniak. "Both of us are desperately in need of a facility in Sherwood Park."
The $15-million complex will house about 800 elementary-junior high students in northeast Sherwood Park.
Despite increasing enrollment, the Catholic and public school boards in Elk Island have been unable to get provincial funding for new schools because they have empty spaces in older schools.
Students in newer neighbourhoods are bused to the nearest schools, which are getting overcrowded.
"We have been requesting funding for a new school but we have only been able to get approval for portables," said Lesniak.
Edmonton has not been any luckier. The Edmonton public school board has been repeatedly turned down in its efforts to get funding for a new school in the Twin Brooks neighbourhood.
Last year, in hopes of attracting provincial funding, it asked Edmonton Catholic Schools to join it in building a multi-use facility in the southwest Edmonton neighbourhood.
The Catholic board refused, however, because Catholic and public students would have had too many common areas in the proposed building, which the board felt would have led to the erosion of the Catholic identity.
Areas such as the gymnasium, library and staff lounge would have been shared by the Catholic and public school. In rejecting the proposal, trustees said they did not believe Catholic education could be preserved in a shared environment.
The Elk Island Catholic board believes the concept will work in Sherwood Park because Catholic and public students will not be mixed together in the classroom.
"We are not sharing classrooms but sites," Lesniak said. "We are two entities sharing the same roof and the same mechanical systems but little else. We'll have totally separate buildings and administration."
The two schools will be separated by a corridor. However, they will share the recreation area as well as the career and technology studies lab, which will be housed on the Catholic side.
"This is not unprecedented," said Lesniak, pointing to Holy Trinity and J. Percy schools in Edmonton, which are joined in the middle by a recreation complex.
The shared Catholic-public school in Sylvan Lake, in construction since last October and the only shared school approved in recent years, has a similar set up.
"I think this (concept) makes sense and it will continue to occur," Lesniak said of shared schools. "It's an efficient and effective way to serve our communities."
The Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association (ACSTA) has advised against sharing projects that may end up being detrimental to the independence and identity of the Catholic school system.
Lois Burke-Gaffney, the association president, declined comment on the Elk Island project, saying she has not yet been formally notified of the proposal.
But she did comment on the association's policy on shared projects.
"We are not against community partnerships but we oppose any project that undermines the permeability of Catholic education," Burke-Gaffney said Jan. 17.
"To have one facility shared by two different philosophies in education is absolutely inappropriate," she said last year following the Twin Brooks proposal.