Three new schools for Cochrane are among the top 10 priorities of the Rocky View School Division (RVS).

A new K-8 school and high school for Airdrie are the top two priorities, followed by a K to 8 school for Cochrane. Number seven on the priority list is a new Cochrane high school and a second K to 8 school is ranked ninth.

The board of trustees has been continuing its advocacy for new schools to handle to booming student population across the division, particularly, but not exclusively, in Airdrie, Cochrane, and Chestermere.

The public school division continues to experience overcrowding in many of its schools. Approval of new schools hasn't kept pace with the growth accurately forecasted by RVS. Last year, that led to the launch of a year-long advocacy plan. It will continue to bring attention to these issues in the current school year. 

RVS wants to secure full construction funding for the four schools that received planning and design funding in the government's 2023-24 budget. It seeks funding for a further three schools required in Airdrie, Springbank, and Cochrane in Budget 2024 so they can be brought online as soon as possible.

The division's approach to advocating for student space has been receiving national attention. It was recently named a recipient of a BRAVO! Award by the Canadian Association of Communicators in Education (CACE). The award will be presented at the CACE conference in Montreal at the end of October.

Last week, Rocky View school trustees reviewed the student enrolment numbers calculated on Sept. 30m an important date for Alberta Education funding. Cochrane, Airdrie, and Chestermere added 1,000 more students, with half of them attending classes in Airdrie.

Rising enrolment has been witnessed at all grade levels and in most RVS communities. The overall utilization rate has risen to 93 per cent, up from 87 per cent last school year.

In Cochrane. it's even higher, averaging 95 per cent. Both high schools are over 100 per cent utilization. Not to diminish the challenges here, the situation is much more severe in Airdrie, where all three of their high schools are at 110 per cent capacity. Should no new high schools open in Airdrie, RVS officials warn this will increase to 130 per cent by 2027.

Chestermere schools are at 98 per cent utilized overall, but they should see some relief shortly with the opening of a new junior/senior high school in Langdon in September 2024.

In Cochrane, the design of the major expansion of Bow Valley High School is expected to be revealed to the public soon. Work is anticipated to begin on doubling its capacity in the spring of 2024. 

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