Westside Boundary Review

Currently, all elementary schools on the westside are near capacity. In particular, Dr. Probe Elementary School is at 99 per cent capacity, and Coalbanks Elementary School is at 91 per cent capacity. Chinook High School, École Nicholas Sheran and Mike Mountain Horse Elementary School are also near capacity.

According to estimates, the westside of Lethbridge could gain anywhere from 800-1,000 students over the next 10 years.

As a result, it is necessary for Lethbridge School District No. 51 to review school boundaries on that side of the city for our elementary schools and our westside high school.

Lethbridge School District No. 51 has stressed the need for a new elementary school in west Lethbridge, and has met with the Government of Alberta to present a case for the construction of a new school.

The process of building a new elementary school on the westside requires a number of steps. It begins with The City of Lethbridge providing a school site. The province requires that the site has the necessary services, such as ­­­­roads, water, sewer services and electricity. It may take 6-12 months to plan and design a new school, and if a serviced site is available and government funding has been secured, another 18-24 months to construct the school.

Until a new school is built, however, boundaries must be shifted in order to spread out the impact of projected growth in students.

At the high school level, Chinook High School is currently at 89 per cent capacity. Enrolment is expected to exceed capacity within two years, creating pressures for high school space in west Lethbridge.

Boundary adjustments will ensure all District schools have the services and the best space to serve our students. We understand switching schools can be a stressful experience for students and their parents. As such, all boundary adjustments will be given careful consideration, feedback loops will be established, and notice given for appropriate transition time.

Boundaries were adjusted prior to the start of the 2017/2018 school year to coincide with the opening of Coalbanks. Currently, all elementary school students who reside west of Metis Trail are within the Coalbanks boundary. Those boundaries were initially put in place to split the number of students evenly among our four westside elementary schools (Coalbanks, Dr. Probe, Mike Mountain Horse and Nicholas Sheran).

Due to faster-than-expected growth in Copperwood and nearby areas, Coalbanks will soon be unable to accommodate all of the students within the school’s current boundary.

The school has a full build-out capacity of 575 students, with the current modular classrooms installed. Currently, Coalbanks has 526 students, which includes Early Education Program students. The school site has the ability to add seven more modular classrooms, to move to a 750-student capacity. Four more modular classrooms have been requested from Alberta Education for the 2019/2020 school year.

According to enrollment projections, student numbers will grow to about 700 at Coalbanks by the 2021/2022 school year.

In the short term, the District has communicated with the Government of Alberta concerning the need for more modular classrooms for our westside elementary schools. Those modulars would provide some temporary relief. By late January, the District is hopeful to receive word on how many modular classrooms we will receive for the 2019/2020 school year.

A number of options are being examined to deal with the shortage of space in our westside elementary schools. No boundary decisions have been made at this point, as a committee has been struck to study the feasibility of a number of potential scenarios.

Once the District knows whether the province will approve additional modulars, and/or construction of a new elementary school, Lethbridge School District No. 51 will provide more details regarding potential boundary adjustments. Opportunities for the public to provide feedback will be included in the process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

 - Why is a new elementary school being built on the southside of Lethbridge, when the westside is the fastest-growing part of the city?

South Lethbridge has been experiencing growth and schools in south Lethbridge were also experiencing capacity pressures. With new development in Fairmont, Sixmile Coulee and now Southbrook, a new school in south Lethbridge is very much required.

 - How can Lethbridge residents help the District’s efforts in advocating for the need for a new westside elementary school?

Contact your elected provincial representative, Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips, at lethbridge.west@assembly.ab.ca or 403-329-4644.

- Can we add more modular classrooms to the other westside elementary schools to increase the capacities of those schools?

Yes, but to only a limited extent. We have almost reached capacity for future modulars. Mike Mountain Horse, for example, already has 21 modulars on site, many of which are reaching the end of their lifespan. Coalbanks only has room for seven more modular, based on the restrictions of the school site.

- How full are the elementary schools on the southside and northside, in comparison to the elementary schools on the westside? 

Southside schools are between 75 per cent to 95 per cent capacity. Lakeview School is at 87 per cent and is the catchment area for all the new growth that will be alleviated by the new southeast elementary School. North Lethbridge Elementary Schools capacity range from 56 per cent to 94 per cent capacity. Galbraith is at 94 per cent Capacity and is our oldest school. It is the District’s first priority for a modernization.

- Why did the District change the Mike Mountain Horse boundary in the first place?

To relieve pressure from Mike Mountain Horse School. Before Coalbanks Elementary School was opened, Mike Mountain Horse was over 100 per cent capacity.

- When a school reaches 90-100 per cent capacity, what are some of the challenges that poses for teachers and students within that school?

When a school reaches over 90 per cent capacity, class size challenges may become a concern due to space, common spaces, spaces to deliver options classes and learning commons (libraries) may need to be converted into classrooms space, thus losing their original functionality and intention.

- Is the District considering moving the elementary French Immersion program back to the southside, and if so, will transportation be provided for westside students? 

All options are being considered at this time, should the District not receive a new school in west Lethbridge. Currently, the government funds transportation for French Immersion students.

- What are the factors the District is going to take into account when adjusting the westside elementary boundaries?

The district considers neigbourhood location to the school, long-term enrollment growth projections for the impacted schools, class size and programming considerations.

- What are the factors the District is going to take into account when adjusting the westside high school boundaries?

The district considers neighbourhood location to the school, long-term enrollment growth projections for the impacted schools, transition implications and programming considerations.

- When will the final decision on boundaries be made, and how will members of the public be able to submit their feedback throughout the process?

The committee will consider feasible options and will request public feedback to inform decision-making. Any decisions regarding the 2019/2020 school year will be made by the end of April, 2019.