Two Edmonton Catholic schools set to close in June, board votes

Two Edmonton Catholic school are destined to close this year because of lower enrolment and higher costs to keep them open, the district said Wednesday. 

St. Gabriel, an elementary school in Capilano, will be closed at the end of June. Its students will be transferred to an elementary-junior high about three kilometres away, the Edmonton Catholic School District board of trustees decided at a public meeting.

Beginning in September, the St. Gabriel building, at 5540 106th Ave., will be taken over by programs currently operating at St. Margaret school in Hazeldean. That school, at 98 Street and 71st Avenue, serves students of all ages with neurodevelopmental disorders, or complex emotional or behavioural issues.

St. Margaret had 81 students at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and had reached capacity, placing students on a waiting list. There is no proposed alternate use for the St. Margaret building.

The vote followed an extensive consultation with the community, the ECSD said.

John Fiacco, assistant superintendent for Educational Planning at Edmonton Catholic Schools, sent a letter to parents explaining the move.

He said that before making the decision, trustees reviewed information from administration as well as feedback from parents, guardians and interested community members.  

Laura Thibert, who chairs the board of trustees, said they recognize that many people are disappointed.

"We did feel the passion from the parents, as well as we heard the voices of the parents," she said.

One reason behind the decision is continuing decline in enrolment, she said. St. Gabriel has about 130 students and by 2024, that's projected to drop to 105.

The district is running a yearly deficit of $372,000 to keep St. Gabriel's open and facing deferred maintenance costs of $6 million, including work to refurbish the boilers and the roof, Fiacco said.

Starting in September, the district will bus the students from St. Gabriel to attend St. Brendan Catholic Elementary and Junior High School about three kilometres away.

Edmonton Catholic School District

As of September 2018, 497 students were enrolled at St. Brendan, which has a capacity of 765.

The relocation of district-wide programs at St. Margaret's Centre for Diverse Learning will move into the space at St. Gabriel.

Edmonton Catholic Schools said administration at St. Margaret's "is committed to working with St. Margaret's students and their families to ensure a successful transition to the new building."