New North High School to open next fall to 1,800 students

Students will have a school within their community, which offers many advantages

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After concerns it might be fully built but sit empty for a year, the new North High School will in fact open next fall to the delight of hundreds of families on the city’s northern edge.

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The state-of-the-art, $70.5-million project will welcome up to 1,800 students, with many able to walk from communities like Coventry Hills, Country Hills and Panorama Hills instead of spending hours commuting to inner-city high schools like William Aberhart or Crescent Heights.

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“It’s such awesome news, it really is amazing,” said Tamara Keller, with the Advocates for North Calgary High School Group, which has been fighting for the high school for over a decade.

Keller’s younger son, now in Grade 9, will be able to start at the new school next fall. And since the Keller home backs onto the green space where the school’s been built along Coventry Hills Way, his walk will be mere minutes.

“It’s really hard to put into words, for all of the people in our community that have put in so much time and effort advocating, adding their voices, coming to rallies, fundraising, and doing so much hard work, it’s such a victory for everyone.”

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Keller was concerned this past spring that the school might not open until 2024 because of uncertainty over whether the Calgary Board of Education would access the labour and materials to complete interior work, even though exterior work is near completion.

But CBE officials have confirmed a fall 2023 opening, finalizing $8.6 million in capital reserve “fit-up” funding this month to finish the project, leaving a total of $29 million still remaining in overall capital reserves.

“I have literally been watching this school go up from my window every day, I didn’t want to have to look at it for another year without it being open,” Keller added.

“Now my son will just have a short walk, on a nice path, straight to his school. It really warms my heart.”

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Alberta Infrastructure had confirmed that base and exterior construction will be finished by mid-2023, including completion of classrooms, gymnasiums, a learning commons, mechanical and electrical work, as well as exterior finishing like masonry and roofing.

But the CBE is still on the hook for the “fit-up” funding which supports the finer details of interior work prior to opening, like installing computer hardware and Wi-Fi networks, said Dany Breton, CBE superintendent facilities.

As well, other expenses not covered by the UCP government’s construction grant include a myriad of materials and resources needed for programming, from musical instruments to laptops and iPads, as well as administrative salaries for staff needing to be in the school over the summer to prepare it for opening.

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But Breton explained the extra capital reserve funding will ensure a quality learning experience for students.

“When you look at the career and technology resources and equipment that students will get … it is very, very on par,” he said.

“It will allow for a seamless transition for students to whatever they’re doing after high school, whether it is post-secondary, or going directly into the workplace.”

Unique learning opportunities include an outdoor, rooftop garden for horticultural students, construction and design classes, culinary arts, auto body shops, and even special ventilated spaces for Indigenous smudging ceremonies.

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Keller agreed families are looking forward to the state-of-the-art programs expected at the school, saying that “the CBE is building a school for the future and offering programs for a wide variety of interests.”

But, most importantly, she added, students will finally have a school within their community, which offers many advantages.

“It all comes back to the whole concept of time is money.

“The kids will no longer have to ride a bus for however long every day. That frees up time to have a part-time job, to give after-school care to siblings, to have closer relationships with teachers or school counsellors because they can arrive early or stay late after school.”

Keller added students who can walk to the new school will also save hundreds of dollars not having to purchase a monthly bus pass.

Calgary Transit now charges $82 for a monthly youth pass, meaning students have to pay a total of $820 a year to take the bus to and from school.

Keller said, “It’s a huge cost for a lot of families, especially with the cost of living being so high, everything is so expensive right now.”

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