Parents in new Edmonton neighbourhood say their kids desperately need a school

·4 min read
Ezra and Aileen Sarfo-Mensah stand beside their mother, Millicent Asiedu, in an empty field beside Edmonton's Edgemont neighbourhood. They hope for a school to be built on the plot of land as soon as possible. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC - image credit)
Ezra and Aileen Sarfo-Mensah stand beside their mother, Millicent Asiedu, in an empty field beside Edmonton's Edgemont neighbourhood. They hope for a school to be built on the plot of land as soon as possible. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC - image credit)

When Millicent Asiedu moved to Edgemont, she was pleased to learn a school would be built in the developing southwest Edmonton neighbourhood.

Pregnant at the time, she hoped it might be ready when her son reached school age. But her son, Ezra, is now six years old and the neighbourhood still lacks a school.

"It's been quite challenging to say the least," Asiedu told CBC News.

The designated public-division schools for children living in Edgemont are about 10 kilometres away. Parents say their kids can't attend schools in closer communities because they are overcapacity.

Asiedu didn't want Ezra spending two hours on the bus every day as a kindergarten student, so she researched other options.

She found space for her son at a Catholic school in Edmonton's west end this fall, but she or her husband will have to drive him there.

Nathan Gross/CBC
Nathan Gross/CBC

The lack of a school in the Edgemont area has driven some families out of the neighbourhood, said Michael Newman, vice-president of the Edgemont Community League's board of directors and a member of its school advocacy committee.

Parents started advocating for a school in Edgemont three years ago, but there was no land available to build one on until recently. In June, a chunk of land beside the community became available after the plot owner decided to sell.

"Now that the land is available, we're trying to expedite that process because every year matters," Newman said.

Meanwhile, Asiedu wonders which school her two-year-old daughter will eventually attend.

How schools get built

Every year, school boards submit capital plans — lists ranking infrastructure projects they need completed over the next three years — to the Alberta government. The province then decides which new schools to fund.

A K-9 school in Edgemont was fourth on Edmonton Public Schools' (EPSB) priority list, according to its 2023-26 capital plan, which was submitted to the province in April. It was behind a K-12 school in Glenridding Heights, a K-6 school in Rosenthal and a middle school in McConachie.

Earlier this month, Kaycee Madu, the MLA for Edmonton-Southwest and the minister of labour and immigration, tweeted that he had a "productive meeting" with community league executives and EPSB trustee Dawn Hancock about the Edgemont school issue.

He urged EPSB to move the school up on its priority list and said he looked forward to "working with Hancock to make it a top priority."

This year, the province approved two school capital projects in Edmonton: a Catholic high school in Castle Downs, and a Catholic elementary and junior high school in Lewis Farms.

EPSB is excited that land in Edgemont is now available, said school division spokesperson Veronica Jubinville.

"We know there are space pressures in this area and we will be looking at our capital plan to see if potential adjustments can be made," she said.

Jubinville added that EPSB is one of the fastest growing school divisions in Alberta, with 2.8 per cent more students joining this school year.

School board trustees would have to approve any changes to the capital plan.

Shovel-ready school sites are required for provincial funding approvals, said Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. The City of Edmonton and the school board are responsible for ensuring the Edgemont land is ready.

The province's annual capital planning process continues, Stavropoulos said, adding projects not previously approved for funding will be considered again when additional funds are available.

Hour-long bus ride to school

Before Liz LaHaye and her family moved to a house in Edgemont, they were renting in a nearby neighbourhood. At the time, her eldest son attended Bessie Nichols School in The Hamptons.

LaHaye assumed she could keep sending her son there and send her daughter there as well. But after the move, they were told the kids' designated school was Winterburn School.

The bus ride from Edgemont to Winterburn School takes about an hour.

Nathan Gross/CBC
Nathan Gross/CBC

The ride has been toughest for her daughter, Magdalena, who is about to start Grade 3, LaHaye said.

"I don't think that it's nice that I get to go on the bus for a long time," Magdalena told CBC News.

Jubinville said EPSB strives to have ride times under an hour whenever possible.

LaHaye and Asiedu wish their children could walk or bike to school and live closer to their classmates.

"If there was a school right here on this field, it would be absolute bliss," Asiedu said.

Even if Edgemont moves up EPSB's priority list, designing and building a school takes several years.

Parents living in the neighbourhood hope a school could open as early as 2026, said Newman of the Edgemont Community League.