Peace Wapiti Academy replacement deemed 'urgent priority'

A file photo of Peace Wapiti Academy in Grande Prairie, Alta. Postmedia Network / Daily Herald-Tribune

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The Peace Wapiti Public School Division board of trustees has requested a replacement Peace Wapiti Academy, deeming it an “urgent priority” in its 2021-2024 Capital Plan.

Requests have also been submitted for a new K-8 school, and a modernization of the current Bonanza School, both categorized as “important priorities.”

The original list of urgent priorities included a replacement K-8 Harry Balfour School to address the school’s continuing upward trend in enrollment. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange confirmed full funding for this school during her visit to PWPSD Central Office on March 9.

With the province’s confirmation of full funding, the board will send a follow-up letter and supporting documentation to County of Grande Prairie councillors. The letter will request a timeline for completion of a construction access road and site services for the land set aside at the Five Mile Hall location for the replacement Harry Balfour School.

The confirmation also shifts the replacement Peace Wapiti Academy to the top of the board’s capital plan priorities list.

In a release, the PWPSD disclosed that the existing facility is approaching its maximum population capacity and securing a replacement school will help to address rapid student population growth.

As stated in its capital plan, the replacement Peace Wapiti Academy is proposed to have a capacity of 1,400 students. In the 2019-2020 school year, the current facility reached 80.16 per cent utilization with a population of 548 students—21 of whom are coded as having severe educational needs.

“We look at current enrollments, projected enrollment, we look at how feeder schools feed into some of our regional high schools and we compile all that information and we develop the capital plan based on our most pressing needs,” said PWPSD Deputy Supt. Darren Young.

“Alberta Education designates a school full once it reaches 85 per cent utilization. We projected Peace Wapiti Academy will reach 85 per cent by 2021-2022, and 100 per cent utilization by 2023.”

Regarding the plans for a new K-8 school, intended construction in the Clairmont area will relieve enrollment pressure that is currently building in the area due to continued population growth within the community and surrounding rural areas.

The new school would also insulate the existing Clairmont Community School from projected enrollment increases. Contemporary estimates indicate the school will continue to grow by 3.5 per cent annually over the next five years.

Young said the school board had done most of the “homework” and planning prior to the recent developments in the COVID-19 pandemic situation and does not expect the plan to be impacted by the outbreak.

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