Gateway Gazette

Foothills School Division Trustees Approve Plans to Address Current Enrolment Pressures and Manage Future Growth in Okotoks

HIGH RIVER, AB, March 4, 2015 – Foothills School Division’s Board of Trustees today approved several recommendations that will ease enrolment pressures in some of its Okotoks schools while ensuring the division can continue to provide students in the growing community with quality learning environments and a great education for many years to come.

“We needed to take steps to address three key issues: space pressures in many of our Okotoks schools; a continued inflow of young families to the Okotoks area; and a current lack of land for new school sites within Okotoks,” explained John Bailey, Superintendent of Schools.

The school division consulted with community stakeholders to explore several potential solutions. Through two community meetings, held in December 2014 and January 2015, and an online survey, interested members of the public were invited to provide feedback and additional considerations that informed recommendations developed by a stakeholder committee:

Recommendation #1: To declare Westmount School full, effective March 5, 2015, and place a cap on enrolment. Until such time as the school utilization rate declines below 100 per cent, any new students within the Westmount boundary who are not currently enrolled in Westmount School will be redirected to Big Rock School or École Okotoks Junior High School (ÉOJHS), depending on the student’s grade level. These students will have the option to register on a wait list to transfer to Westmount School should space become available within the enrolment cap. Priority will be given to students who already have siblings attending Westmount.

Recommendation #2: To make a small adjustment to the Westmount junior high boundary that will see grade 6 students at Big Rock School redirected to ÉOJHS, effective September 2015. While this change will not significantly reduce the number of junior high students at Westmount, it will simplify the junior high boundaries in Okotoks and assist in administering the cap at Westmount. Former Big Rock students currently attending junior high at Westmount will be permitted to stay at the school through grade 9.

Recommendation #3 approved in principle: To move the Kindergarten program from Westmount School to Big Rock School beginning in September 2015. The Board accepted a Notice of Motion as the first step in a process set out in Policy 15: School Closure-Reconfiguration. The school division will notify and consult with stakeholders before the Board of Trustees makes a final decision on June 3, 2015. Subject to final approval, the plan would see students in the Westmount boundary attend Big Rock for kindergarten. They could then enter Westmount beginning in grade 1, space permitting. The division would reinstate the kindergarten program at Westmount when the school population declines to an appropriate level.

In addition, the Board approved changes to the division’s Three Year Capital Plan based on approvals granted by the provincial government:

  • Redirecting $25 million in funding approved for the modernization of École Secondaire Foothills Composite High School/Alberta High School of Fine Arts (FCHS/AHSFA) to Phase 1 of a new 1,800-student high school in the Aldersyde area adjacent to the new Legacy Regional Field House. Phase 1 will accommodate up to 700 students. The division will continue to work with the Province to secure funding and finalize plans for Phase 2 as soon as possible.
  • Redirect funding for a new kindergarten to grade 9 (K-9) school in the Okotoks area, announced in October 2014, to modernize FCHS/AHSFA and change its configuration to a new K-9 school with a new name.
  • Until the new Aldersyde high school is fully completed, the FCHS/AHSFA campus will be home to both the new K-9 school and some high school students.

“We are grateful for the tremendous support we have received from our stakeholders, including parents and community members, Education Minister Gordon Dirks, Alberta Infrastructure, Highwood MLA Danielle Smith, and the M.D. of Foothills,” said Board Chair Christine Pretty. “Our Board recognizes that an enormous amount of work and collaboration has been invested in these thoughtful proposals, and we thank everyone involved for their work.”

Bailey acknowledged that some families will be impacted by these decisions, while emphasizing that in the near term, none of the division’s students currently enrolled in Okotoks schools will have to change schools. Okotoks attendance boundaries will not undergo any significant changes until the division opens the first phase of the new Aldersyde high school and FCHS/AHSFA transitions to a K-9 school.

“This plan respects consistent feedback from stakeholders, who urged us to select options that affected the smallest number of students and were the least disruptive to students already attending school in Okotoks,” added Bailey. “The community also expressed a preference for the synergies associated with locating a high school adjacent to the new Legacy Regional Field House, and keeping younger students in schools located within the Town of Okotoks.”

About Foothills School Division (FSD)

FSD serves more than 8,000 students in junior kindergarten (pre-kindergarten) through grade 12, and employs over 800 teachers and support staff. Located on Calgary’s southern border within the M.D. of Foothills, FSD serves the towns of Okotoks, High River, Turner Valley and Black Diamond, and the communities served by our Blackie, Cayley, Heritage Heights, Longview, Millarville and Red Deer Lake (south Calgary) schools. FSD operates 19 public schools, three Hutterite Colony schools and three open campus locations providing academic and behavioural support programs. As a public school division, we are here to improve learning for ALL students and offer a rich variety of quality programs and services to meet the needs and interests of all students. For more information please visit www.fsd38.ab.ca

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