St. Albert school superintendents say they’re now okay with a proposed change coming to city council this week that would encourage – but not require – them to build multi-level schools.
City council will debate Tuesday proposed changes to the municipal development plan that would encourage the construction of multi-storey schools.
Council passed first reading of these amendments back in April but held off on second reading in order to refer them to the Capital Region Board. The board approved the changes on May 30, so they’re now back before council.
If approved, the changes would require school boards to submit plans to build a multi-storey school on a school site before the city would give them control of it. This would be subject to provincial government specifications and could be waived if a single storey was deemed more suitable.
“We don’t have an unlimited amount of municipal reserve,” said city planner Robin Beukens, and this change was meant to promote efficient land use.
The changes also require all school sites to have a park next to them when created, and for school sites to be established and serviced before 30 per cent of an area structure plan is parcelled out for development. Had the latter rule been in place years ago, the city might have avoided its current situation with Kingswood, which still doesn’t have a school site despite being mostly built-out, said Adryan Slaght, city director of planning and development.
St. Albert’s Catholic, public, and francophone boards wrote letters to council protesting a previous version of the amendments that gave the city final say over whether a single-storey school was more appropriate than a multi, pointing out that it was the province and the school board, not the city, that had authority over school designs.
The current version of the law reflects this reality, Beukens said.
“Ultimately, the type of school that is built is up to the school board.”
Catholic board superintendent David Keohane said engineers urged the board to not go to two storeys at the new Sister Alphonse Academy in Jensen Lakes as, due to its size, they would lose classroom space to elevators and stairs if they did so. A school needs roughly 500 students before it can go multi-storey without such loss.
“However a rule is established, the rule needs to have room for flexibility and understanding,” he said.
Keohane and his public board counterpart Barry Wowk supported the proposed requirement to establish school sites earlier in a region’s development, as it would help the placement of related public amenities such as libraries and give residents a better indication of what would be in their neighbourhood.
“Kids need room to play,” Wowk said, so he approved of the new requirement to pair each school site with a park.
“The more parkland we have next to a school, the better it is.”
The proposed changes are up for second and third reading Tuesday.