By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
Groundbreaking for the a new high school in the Town of Raymond is set to begin this summer.
Alberta’s Minister of Infrastructure, Nathan Neudorf, had more details to share regarding Budget 2023 and the Province’s announcement to fully fund the construction of a new high school in Raymond on Friday.
The Government of Alberta’s Budget 2023 has allocated $2.3 billion in the next three years to 58 school projects
including full construction funding for 13 schools.
The Province’s investment will add nearly 25,000 new and upgraded spaces for students in the coming years.
The new school in Raymond will be located near Victoria Park, and has been approved for up to $37.6 million for the construction.
The project will see Westwind School Division (WSD) continue to work collaboratively with the Town of Raymond throughout the process. Mayor of the Town of Raymond, Jim Depew, said WSD approached council around five years ago, reporting that the Town’s schools were at capacity, and the funding announcement has been a long time coming.
“It’s great to see this finally happening,” said Depew.
Depew remarked that many of the municipalities Town staff have visited are facing growth stagnation. Depew commented, “we’re not; we’re growing.” Growth projections predict Raymond will continue to grow alongside the urban fringe surrounding the municipality.
“Our fringe area in the five mile radius around the town in the County of Warner, is home to 1,500 people, and it is growing,” added Depew noting students from Warner County currently represent approximately 20 per cent of the town’s student population.
For several years, the WSD has cited “enrolment pressures” as a primary reason to get the project off the ground. Growth in the town and immediate surrounding area has resulted in a 30 per cent increase in the student population in Raymond schools from 2008-2023. Additionally, detailed population/growth projections show “considerable” growth is expected in the town of Raymond in the coming years. To accommodate the steady growth in the town, Raymond schools currently utilize 22 modular learning spaces (portables) to circumvent limitations within “core” school infrastructure.
Minister Neudorf noted the Province’s investment addresses the division’s concerns that Raymond schools have simply outgrown their core capabilities inside and outside of the schools and in shared areas such as gyms, hallways, and libraries.
WSD superintendent, Darren Mazutinec, said Raymond’s schools are in a unique situation.
“We really have a school within a school – we have a portables village that is packed with kids on a little block of land. When I combine my elementary walkers with learners (permit) drivers and senior high school drivers, plus the staff and buses,” the congestion is significant.
“We started the consulting process over five years ago where we canvased and sent a survey out to our communities for their input and received excellent feedback, and brought that to our pre-planning architect,” said Mazutinec.
Neudorf said, “I know this is exciting news for the Westwind School Division and for the growing number of students and for everyone who lives in and around this wonderful community.”
Once complete, the new school will have capacity for 550 students for grades 9-12 with an ability for future increase to 760 student capacity. Neudorf said the new space will also, “provide spaces for families and neighbours who gather together for school and community events.”
“Today’s announcement brings us closer to opening the doors.”
While no official timeline is in place, Mazutinec said the project is on track to kick off in the coming months.
“We are ecstatic to see the building that we’ve got on paper begin to build this summer and hopefully we can get it done within a couple of years.”