What to do with a vacant school in Cochrane? It is a good problem to have and one that will be dealt with by the community and Rocky View Schools soon.  

To provide a little school history, in 1993, Calgary Catholic School District needed a school in Cochrane. Rocky View Schools sold (what was known at that time) Andrew Sibbald on Powell Street to the Catholic division for $10 and it became Holy Spirit Catholic School. 

This year, Holy Spirit moved into its newly built school in Fireside leaving its old location on Powell Street vacant.  

A vacant school in a rapidly growing community with a utilization rate of 97 per cent in schools, is an interesting conundrum.  

At the last RVS board meeting, the subject was addressed and it was revealed that RVS has repurchased the Powell Street school back from Calgary Catholic for $10.  

That now has RVS putting a plan in motion to find the best usage solution for the school.  

The building would have a capacity of 332 students and space for an additional 150 students if modulars were added to the sight. Board Chair, Norma Lang says the first steps of putting a plan in motion have been taken: "The board made the decision at our last board meeting that we would invest about $2.8 million in the estimated cost to renovate the school.”  

Most everyone in Cochrane knows that class space is a hot commodity in Cochrane with our rapidly growing population and Lang says, “We wanted to move quickly because we, of course, need this school space in Cochrane and we wanted to have it open for September next year.”  

There are some issues that need to be addressed with the renovations including water drainage and changing the grade of the ground around the school as well as updating washrooms and changing out the technology.  

The big question is once the renovations are complete, who will then occupy the school on Powell Street?  

Lang says, “It is the million-dollar question and something the board does not want to tackle without doing some community consultation.” The administration has been instructed to produce some options that would work for the building and those ideas will be presented to the community early in the new year along with the solicitation of ideas from residents. Lang says, there will be a “Community conversation about what the best way is to bring the school into the Rocky View Schools fold and service the community and the families in Cochrane.” 

The urgent need for space for students in Cochrane was presented to the Town by the RVS Board describing the current situation at 97 per cent utilization across all RVS Cochrane Schools. Some examples of schools in the community facing significant utilization pressure include Cochrane High School at 105 per cent, Mitford/Cochrane Christian Academy at 108 per cent, and Manachaban School at 109 per cent with many others close to these rates. With high utilization rates across all grades, the addition of the new school will help but not resolve the division’s need for more space.

Superintendent Greg Luterbach says “I would expect we will send out letters to probably all of our Cochrane families. Typically, in these consultations, we come forward and say here are three or four ideas that we have built about possibilities of how we can utilize the Powell St. school within RVS. We try to really provide an opportunity for us to share information but as much opportunity for people to share their ideas back with us so that we can make the very best decision moving forward.” 

Stay tuned to weigh in on the unique and intriguing issue early in the new year.