EDMONTON - Edmonton Catholic school trustees reluctantly backed a plan Tuesday to send junior high students from a new, but overcrowded, west-end school to another facility.
The move will see Grade 7, 8 and 9 students who currently attend Sister Annata Brockman School move to H.E. Beriault Junior High School next fall. But it is a plan, trustees said prior to the unanimous vote, that they still hope the district can avoid.
"This does not mean we are going to quit lobbying. This does not mean we wish Annata Brockman to be a K to six," board chairwoman Debbie Engel said. "We want Annata Brockman to be a K to nine. H.E. Beriault is a very self-sufficient school on its own. It's a move strictly because we are not allowed to accommodate the students in portables because of the Alberta school alternative procurement P3 design."
The main problem at Sister Annata Brockman is the unexpectedly rapid growth of the Catholic student population in the Hamptons, west of Anthony Henday Drive. The school, opened in 2010 and meant for 600 students, currently has 730 enrolled. With no changes, there would be nowhere to put the estimated 90 kindergarten students expected to enrol in September.
Since it was built as a public-private partnership, known as a P3, district officials say they've been told no more modular classrooms can be added to the school without renegotiating that contract with the company responsible for maintenance. Alberta Education disputes those restrictions are because the school was built as a P3.
More than 200 parents attended a meeting in the school's gym Monday night, listening to options for junior high students that included either a move to H.E. Beriault School or a one-year plan to move Grade 8 and 9 students into Archbishop Oscar Romero high school. Parents such as Nicole Bilyk said they didn't like option A or B. "There has to be a C," Bilyk said.
Jeff Bellinger, a consultant with Nichols Applied Management who reviewed 150 parent surveys, told trustees there is no doubt most parents want the school to continue as an elementary-junior high.
"If that wasn't possible, parents clearly wanted to keep the Grades 7, 8 and 9 students together," Bellinger said.
Edmonton Catholic now must write a letter to Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, asking him to waive the usual requirements of community consultation that come with closing a junior high program.
Edmonton Journal, Tues Mar 20 2012
Byline: Sarah O'Donnell