Planning has not accounted for the doubling of population in the past 25 years and the sprawl that has come with it. While young families move to the outskirts to find affordable, new homes, the infrastructure that matters most has not followed. Calgary has not had a new school approved in 5 years, and is currently in need of more than 2 dozen.The map above explains the problem in the best way I know how. In 1980, my family moved to Richmond, BC. We moved in to a new home, in a new subdivision. The red dots in the map above are high schools, the blue ones are public schools. Within a reasonable distance of less than a mile, there were 4 public and 3 high schools. All of those schools existed in 1980, the day we moved in to our home.
Now, look at the map of the community where I live in Calgary. Like the Richmond, community, it is on the edge of town next to agricultural land, but within the same walking distance you will 2 private (green) and 1 public school. That’s it.
Calgary needs schools. When new communities are built, the land cannot simply be set aside as “future school”, it needs to be built. Just as we build dry cleaners, coffee shops, and restaurants when we build new communities, we need to build schools.
Make the community planners build them. Make the government build them. Make the city build them. I don’t care how it gets done, but it needs to be done. As it stands, kids are being bused all over the city (adding to an already ridiculous traffic pattern – again due to poor planning). Sending kids on a 30-45 minute commute in each direction to get to their “local” school does not create community.
Last night I went to an open house at the public French Immersion school my son is zoned for – it is 6km from our house. Okay, I get that we asked for a specialty program, but the regular english school is across the way from the French one, the same distance away. The elementary school is a french/spanish mix of immersion and it is bursting at its seams. With kids in the library and staff lounge, there are 725 students crammed in and it is capacity. A few blocks away sits another anglo school with 150 children from K-6 – it can hold 450.
“Regular” programs are sitting vacant, while “specialized” programs are exploding schools and forcing kids onto buses all over the city. Perhaps it is time to change what we consider to be “regular”?
In the Rosscarrock / Westgate / Wildwood problem, we have 2 anglo (“regular”) schools. One is 1/2 empty (or more) while the language school is bursting. It could all be solved by moving the anglo kids into one school instead of 2. It frees up one for the spanish kids, and the french kids get the third. Everyone has breathing room, and the problem is (almost) solved. Our community ‘up on the hill’ would be feeding these non-walkable, distance schools – but at least the teachers would get their staff room back.
Build the schools. If Richmond, BC could figure it out in the 1970s, surely a modern Calgary can grasp the concept.