New classrooms delayed for Sister Annata Brockman school

By Craig Fraser and Maxwell Rausch

EDMONTON — An overcrowded west Edmonton school will have to wait longer than expected to get its students out of trailers and into permanent classrooms.

Sister Annata Brockman Elementary and Junior High School, located on 355 Hemingway Rd. west of Anthony Henday Drive, now has to wait until late winter or spring to receive permanent modular classrooms to help house its 725 students.

“It is a mess,” said Debbie Engel, chair of the Edmonton Catholic school board.

The school was expecting these permanent additions by mid-November but has been told by builders that they won’t come until March or April, Engel said. For now, the school has to make do with Atco portables, Engel said.

“Right now it’s my knowledge that the buildings have just started construction,” said Suzanne Szojka, principal of Sister Annata Brockman.

“We were told they would start construction (on the modular classrooms) in the beginning of December… That’s two weeks of work and then Christmas break into January, they can come any time in the new year,” Szojka said.

Szojka’s concern, however, is that the modular rooms coming may not be enough to cover the growing population. Sister Annata Brockman started with 560 students last year, and saw its enrolment increase by almost 30 per cent this year. Given its location in a growing part of west Edmonton, its population is likely to going up.

“The pilings are in place already, the buildings could be delivered at any time, which is nice, but we have to anticipate for an even larger increase of students for next year.” Szojka said.

To Szojka, the overpopulation  is a problem that must be handled delicately.

Sister Annata Brockman over capacity

Permanent modular classrooms for Sister Annata Brockman have been delayed until at least March of 2012. Photograph by Craig Fraser.

“The thing with our population is that we have had a lot more potential to expand programs and offer more extracurricular.” Szojka said. “It’s a structure and way of being. We can offer so much, it’s hard to just move that.”

The situation at Sister Annata Brockman contrasts with that of St. Mark Junior High School, at 11625 135 street in the Woodcroft neighbourhood, which may close due to declining enrolment.

St. Mark has 111 students, which is down about half from its population two years ago.

The Edmonton Catholic board is spending $250,000 a year to keep St. Mark’s open, said Engel. So the board has decided to begin the closure process, which includes public consultation.

“All the trustees are anxious to hear what the public has to say,” said Becky Kallal, Edmonton Catholic board trustee for Ward 71, where St. Mark’s is located.

Citizens are invited to express their views on the impending closure at a meeting on Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. in the St.Mark’s gymnasium. Kallal also invites the public to call or email trustees with their opinions.

The board is expected to cast its final vote on the fate of St. Mark’s on Feb. 14.

The board had considered closing St. Mark’s last year, but voted to keep the school open to exhaust all other possibilities before closure, Engel said.

Edmonton Catholic has not closed a school since 2003, when it closed St. Michael, St. Patrick and Sacred Heart schools.

The Edmonton public school board put a moratorium on school closures in 2010.