Catholic families pull away from South West High School

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“We are witnessing a slow depletion of the importance of Catholic education in this city, in this province”

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Catholic families in southwest Calgary are seeing their hopes for a new high school increasingly dashed by changing district priorities and dwindling provincial funding.

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In just one year, West Calgary High School has gone from No. 5 on the capital’s wish list to No. 9, with the new Rangeview High School in the Southeast now ahead of it at No. 8, according to the Calgary Catholic The school district‘s latest three-year capital plan.

Parents from the West Calgary High School Advocacy Group say the four-point cut was made without consultation and now forces Catholic students living in the expanding communities of Springbank Hill, Aspen, West Springs and Cougar Ridge to choose between two tough options for 10th graders. to 12 in the years to come.

They can take public transportation—commuting for over an hour each way—to downtown St. Mary’s High School, or they can attend Ernest Manning, completing their Catholic education at a school public secondary school with overcapacity.

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“More and more of our families go to public high schools, yet we still do the sacraments, that’s who we are, that’s our roots,” said Stephanie Doucet, who has two boys, one of whom is now in middle school. .

“The question is who is for Catholic schools? Who is for Catholic education?

Doucet is also one of more than 450 parents who now represent the West Calgary High School Advocacy Group, which has been calling for a new high school in the area for years.

“To see our high school continue to be moved down as a priority – without any parental consultation – is simply not fair,” said Krista Li, who also sits on the advocacy group and whose eldest daughter is in 6th grade.

“I don’t want my daughter to commute on public transit for an hour each way when she’s in high school.

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“But I don’t want her to end her Catholic education either. And we know Ernest Manning is packed,” Li said.

“This advice seems to be based on that, that Catholics can just attend the nearest public secondary school in their area. So we are witnessing a slow depletion of the importance of Catholic education in this city, in this province.

Cathie Williams, Chair of the CCSD Board of Directors, says the need for a high school is much higher in the Deep South where growth rates are over 20% compared to West Calgary where the growth rate is only 4%.

“In terms of our investment plan, things will go up and down and change in priority, depending on the different growth trends we see.”

Williams said the needs of secondary schools are not the only challenges CCDS faces given the share of capital funding it received in the UCP government’s 2022 budget.

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The district received funding for a new elementary-junior high school this year after receiving no new schools last year, keeping it well behind in meeting many urgent needs for new infrastructure and upgrades. .

According to CCSD data on capital funding per student in Alberta over the past seven years, CCSD continues to receive one of the lowest amounts of funding compared to other large city school districts.

Averaging capital funding per student for the four metropolitan school boards between 2013 and 2020, CCSD received only $6,997 per student, compared to the Edmonton Catholic School District, which receives $10,051 per student. , and to the Edmonton Public School Board, at $8,255. The Calgary Board of Education receives the lowest at $6,586 per student.

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Last week, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced funding for the $27 million Legacy Elementary and High School in the city’s southernmost community, where many students now travel more than 45 minutes by bus to other schools.

Yet nearly $107 million in new schools and priority upgrades in the first year of CCSD’s three-year capital plan has been ignored by the province.

“Capital funding for school districts as a whole just isn’t enough,” Williams said.

“Before, there was a sectoral formula that served the districts well. Since then, it would seem that decisions have been made more on a political basis than on the basis of needs.

Critics have questioned the politics surrounding recently announced large amounts of funding for rural and central Alberta projects ahead of Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review scheduled for early April.

In recent weeks, UCP announced a $1.8 billion expansion of the Red Deer hospital and a $13.7 million investment in a small school in Acme, about an hour north -west of Calgary, with approximately 200 students.

During Acme’s announcement, LaGrange said the province considered many factors when awarding up to $2 billion in capital funding for the 15 projects chosen from 400 applications.

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