Rocky View Schools requesting modular classrooms as a result of high utilization rates

RVS is hopeful the request will be accepted by the provincial government by February.

Rocky View Schools (RVS) is asking the provincial government for 32 modular classroom units to ease overcrowding and high utilization rates in schools across the division.

“Modulars are a mechanism to deal with emerging growth in communities, we have plenty of that across RVS,” Superintendent of RVS, Greg Luterbach said during the Nov. 3 school board meeting.

“We grew by about 1,300 students in our schools the past year, that’s the equivalent of a high school, and with that growth is the need for more space,” RVS Director of Operations Colette Winter said.

Winter explained that adding modular units to schools will bring down the utilization rates to 100 per cent.

Annually, RVS requests the modular units based on expected accommodation changes, projected enrolments, and preliminary utilization rates.

RVS is requesting four modular units for Chestermere Lake Middle School, which has a projected utilization rate of 110 per cent, and 114 per cent for next year. The four units will add 100 new spaces for students and are expected to bring the utilization rate down to 101 per cent.

RVS is also requesting four units for Chestermere High School, which currently has a utilization rate of 105 per cent and 115 per cent for next year. However, with the Langdon School opening within a couple of years, RVS is considering Chestermere High School to be a last priority.

“We know Langdon School will be pulling away some of those students,” Winter said. “All the priorities are incredibly high needs. All of our schools are well overutilized. It is difficult setting them as a priority.”

Chestermere Lake Middle School currently has a total of 878 students, with a capacity of 797. Next year, the student total is projected to be 906 with a capacity of 897.

Chestermere High School has a total of 981 students, and a capacity of 1,026. Next year, the student total is expected to be 1,178 with a capacity of 1,126.

“Being from Chestermere, I know how full the schools are, and how much growth is happening. These are band-aids. We’re at the point where everyone needs to pull their weight and fulfil their responsibility. From the City of Chestermere’s perspective, we need schools, as of today, zero school sites are ready. With schools being out of capacity for modulars and no school sites ready, residential growth at this point is irresponsible,” Ward 1 RVS Trustee Shali Baziuk said. “Educating students is one thing, but providing space for students is a shared responsibility, we can’t do this by ourselves, and everybody needs to be part of the solution, this is an obligation.

This past year, RVS relocated ten modular classrooms using district reserve funds, as the provincial government did not support the Modular Classroom Program.

Typically, RVS will know by February how many modular units have been approved by the provincial government.

“The responsibility of our school district is to request from the government, and the responsibility of government is to make the capital and provide the funding to provide schools,” Winter said.

“We’re constantly looking at what will happen if we don’t get the modular units. We’ll be looking at every space in the school and rationalizing it. It’s about more intensification of existing spaces,” Luterbach said.

He explained that overutilization will be a significant challenge for RVS until new schools are built.

“There won’t be an empty seat across Rocky View,” Luterbach said.

Ward 3 RVS Trustee Melyssa Bowen expressed that the trustees and the parent community need to be advocating for the modular units, and more schools in RVS.

“We need to advocate for these modulars because we do need them, but it goes together with the need for schools in general,” Bowen said. “We’re putting forward the 32 modulars to really hope there’s clarity here that these schools are over 100 per cent capacity.”

Ward 4 Trustee and RVS Board Chair Norma Lang explained that although RVS doesn’t have a definitive date for when the provincial government will approve the request, trustees will continue to monitor school utilization rates, and advocate for more space.

“The fact of the matter is we don’t know how many modulars the government is going to build and have ready. We don’t know what we’re competing with or what other school divisions are asking for,” Lang said. “I’m asking, pleading, that everybody keeps their fingers crossed that we will get the 32 modulars that we need.”

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