Palliser starts conversation about its Coaldale schools

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Acting Superintendent Dr. Garry Andrews encouraged the audience to share any and all ideas.

COALDALE — Palliser Regional Schools’ trustees and administration welcomed more than 200 parents and staff from Coaldale and area to an open house Tuesday to brainstorm how to best meet the needs of students in existing facilities for the short-, mid- and long-term.

Acting Superintendent Dr. Garry Andrews encouraged the crowd to review storyboard information about the challenges and opportunities identified in each of Palliser’s schools in Coaldale and at Sunnyside, as well as information on school enrolment over the past eight years. Each school’s administrative team and some teachers were stationed around the Coaldale Community Centre to talk about their school buildings and programs.

The storyboards also shared the utilization rate of the schools, based on an Alberta Education formula that compares student enrolment with instructional space. Andrews cautioned that the utilization percentage can be deceiving. Jennie Emery Elementary School, for example, has a utilization rate of 94 per cent, yet the school could not accommodate six per cent more students because the gym, library and washrooms are already at capacity.

He shared a graphic of combined grade-by-grade enrolment from Sunnyside School, Jennie Emery, John Davidson, R.I. Baker Middle and Kate Andrews High schools, as of Sept. 30, 2016, which shows more students in the lower grades than at higher ones, suggesting a crowding issue now being experienced at Jennie Emery will be moving to the middle school.

Based on current projections, he expects programs could stay where they are for another school year, but adjustments will be needed by 2018-2019.

“This is just the start of the conversation,” he said, adding the feedback collected from the open house would be distilled to identify themes which could then be brought back to stakeholders.

While “let’s build a new school” was a popular suggestion, Andrews said new construction and even approval for new modular classrooms are long processes that won’t address immediate needs.

He said he was looking forward to reviewing the many different ideas to emerge from the evening.

For those not able to attend, the powerpoint and storyboards are available here in PDF for ease of printing. The storyboards and presentation slides are also shared in the gallery below as JPGs. 

Anyone wishing to provide comments or suggestions is asked to submit them by Feb. 7, 2017 by email to, by mail to Coaldale Open House, #101 3305 18 Avenue North, Lethbridge, AB T1H 5S1 or by fax to 403-380-6890. Comments do not need to be submitted on the forms provided at the open house.