At this time of year, most parents are helping their children with homework, attending extra-curricular activities and preparing for Halloween. But for parents at the brand new East Lake School, they are having the added pressure of researching and petitioning the Alberta Government for much needed portables.
Portables were originally applied for prior to the school opening, but due to enrollment numbers at the time of application only showing East Lake School being 96% utilized, the Province denied the application. However, as of September 30th – the school is now well exceeding capacity as it is at an incredible 112% utilization with classes being held in the learning commons where students are struggling to stay on task due to the high amount of distractions.
One Chestermere resident that has two children attending the jam packed school is Nina Bruchet who has spent countless hours doing her own homework on this situation. “East Lake School had requested 20 classrooms and only received 16 and the 4 requested portables were denied. There are no books available for the French Immersion or English students due to no library and no space for 2014/2015. East Lake School has been zoned in an area of massive construction. This means the growth rate is exponential for this school in particular” said Bruchet. She continues, “Parents are unhappy with the current setup and staff are overworked and dealing with issues they should not have to focus on. This is diverting them from the job they are paid for – teaching our kids.”
At a Board of Trustee’s meeting held on October 2nd, a motion was passed for an emergency request to be submitted to the Province for 16 portables for the East Lake School. When considering the growth of the Kinniburgh area of Chestermere, should 16 portables be approved and built, they would be at their capacity in three years.
Ward 2 Trustee with Rockyview Schools, Bev LaPeare had this to say “Concerns expressed from parents relates to having two classes currently housed in the Learning Commons. Rockyview staff are going to visit this school to investigate options to provide a better learning experience for the students’.
On October 3rd, representatives of the Rockyview School Division paid a visit to East Lake School and have now committed to constructing walls within the Learning Commons to create two distinct classrooms. “This should alleviate the concerns from parents regarding both visual as well as auditory distractions”, says LaPeare.
LaPeare goes on to say, ” all schools in Chestermere will be full in 2-3 years and that is why there is a new K-9 school on our capital plan that requires immediate approval.”
According to LaPeare, the new K-9 school being proposed will be located on the west side of Chestermere. It will relieve the inevitable crowding at Prairie Waters Elementary, Chestermere Lake Middle School and Rainbow Creek Elementary.
With the rapid growth of Chestermere and the potential for continued growth, it makes one wonder why new schools are not built to facilitate more students from the beginning. LaPeare explained saying, “East Lake School would have been big enough to accommodate this year’s students, if the province had approved the four portables that were requested. The capacity at the school would have been much greater because of the portables so the utilization percentage would be in turn lower. There would have been extra portables added each year to house the children as the enrollment grows, but now that we didn’t get those four initial portables, we’re scrambling to house the students that we know we’d need to house,”.
Frustrated parent, Nina Bruchet, went on to say, “Parents are already pulling their children from East Lake School, English and French immersion, due to the issues at hand. The issues are a result of staff being given an overcrowded school in their very first year of operations. This results in burnout and attrition of staff. We as parents raised the funds to install a playground for this school, costs not put to Alberta at all. We even installed it ourselves. All this done through our own volunteer work in less than 6 months. We are not permitted to raise money for the portables and we need them yesterday. This month has been changing weekly with government. Our education minister has been changed from Jeff Johnson to Gordon Dirks. Our premiere has changed recently to Jim Prentice. At times of change, a lot will be going on to win elections and sway public opinion. This week parents of East Lake School need to speak up we will be listened to greatly at this moment. We need a new school to be started now let alone the 16 portables to be added onto East Lake. By the time it will be built, we will be overcapacity for that new one as well.”