Construction of a northwest Calgary Francophone school will go ahead as early as this fall despite hundreds of furious area residents turning out to voice opposition to the project last month.
The school, due to open in 2016 and accommodate 400 students, will be built on a treasured park in Scenic Acres; however, that land has long been designated a school site. The plot was previously owned by the Calgary Board of Education but transferred to the regional Francophone school board, Conseil Scolaire FrancoSud, in 2011.
Scenic Acres residents with the Save Our Park Steering Committee made news of the school’s approval public on a Facebook page Sunday.
“The FrancoSud board provided no transparency in their decision process and did not consider the strong feedback they have received from our community,” read a posting online.
The committee claims the CBE and Calgary Catholic School District collectively provided six other locations where the school could be developed outside of Scenic Acres.
Committee members have not responded to repeated requests for an interview.
But trustee chair Anne-Marie Boucher said Sunday a major factor in deciding to keep the school on its original plot was timing. Her board hopes to move students from a deteriorating facility near Market Mall and also is seeing greater enrolment demand from the community.
“We understand the worries the people had but it was designated a school site . . . we’re confident that we can have a school and still keep much of the green space and then everybody will be able to enjoy the site,” Boucher said.
In late May, more than 350 “pretty hostile” residents turned out to a meeting to voice displeasure with the school, according to area city Coun. Ward Sutherland.
Many residents have said they had no idea the green space, located along Scenic Acres Drive NW, was designated for a school until a provincial announcement in February that gave the project the go-ahead.
The CBE has also faced similar opposition to a site for special-needs students in the nearby Varsity community. In response, the public board has said it plans to publish a record of all potential future school sites.
Boucher said the school may be developed with a bus-only lane to ease traffic concerns and documents would be provided to Scenic Acres community representatives later in the week identifying potential configurations for the facility’s design.
“We want our kids to be safe too,” she said.
She could not specify how much of the park would be taken up by the development but said her organization has worked well with other communities to provide community access to school gymnasiums and other facilities.
The park committee said they wouldn’t let up despite the Francophone board’s decision.
“They would like us to go away but we did anticipate this result might occur and have a viable strategic response,” read the group’s online statement. “There will be further communication on specific actions forthcoming,”
An online petition opposing the Scenic Acres Francophone school has received more than 1,300 signatures.