By Villeneuve, Melissa on September 14, 2017.
Less than two weeks ago, students returned to school after their summer break. But they returned to full classes and already some Lethbridge schools are utilizing alternative spaces as a classroom.
The new westside Coalbanks Elementary School opened this year already at maximum capacity. Lethbridge School District 51 officials had forecast an enrolment of about 270. However, they were hit with a total of 482 students registered from early education (preschool) to Grade 5.
“Certainly much larger than we had originally anticipated when we initially started planning the school,” said LSD 51 superintendent Cheryl Gilmore. “We’re full. One of our project-based inquiry centres is being used as a classroom rather than a project centre because we needed another classroom space.”
Eight modular classrooms are being used, with plans for four more modular classrooms to be added next fall.
It’s a similar situation at schools across the district. Enrolment numbers are up across the board, with the greatest increase on the westside, said Gilmore.
G.S. Lakie Middle School is also full, and Chinook High School has close to 80 more students than what was projected.
There are a total of 11,270 students registered in the district for the 2017/18 school year. Enrolment has increased by a total of 4.6 per cent overall, said Gilmore.
“We projected around a 2.8 per cent growth, and we’re already 1.8 per cent above what we projected, so certainly strong enrolment growth,” she said. “We’ve had increased enrolments on the northside as well as the southside, so everywhere has grown, most significantly is the westside.”
Some teachers have been added throughout the district to assist with the growth. The district is also in the process of reviewing class-size reports from their schools.
“We will review that over the next two weeks and determine if we have any hot spots we need to address.”
Wilson Middle School recently underwent an extensive modernization which was completed this past summer, and a new west Lethbridge middle school is being built in the Waterbridge subdivision. Gilmore said construction is on track for the school to open in September 2018.
The district is hopeful their next capital project, a southeast elementary school, will be approved for funding by the province.
“Our schools on the southside are full, over full, and so certainly we were given approval for the planning phases and we’re really anticipating and hopeful about getting approval for capital projects.”
Gilmore said they’ve worked closely with the developer and the City of Lethbridge to make things “site ready” should construction funding be approved.
If so, they hope to have the school built by fall 2020.
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