Catholic online school to be built near Aldersyde
Education: $5 million campus will serve close to 3,000 students worldwide
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Monday, Feb 25, 2013 01:58 pm
An online and home-schooling program attended by almost 2,700 students worldwide operated by the local Catholic school division will be moving its headquarters into the MD of Foothills.
Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools (CRCS) plans to build a $4 million to $5 million 22,000-square-foot campus on a piece of land north of Okotoks along Highway 2. They will sell two homes they are currently using on Elma Street in downtown Okotoks when the new building opens.
Last week Foothills MD council voted to give land in the Warner Business Park, north of Okotoks along Highway 7, to CRCS for their online school campus.
The cost of the land has not yet been determined, but municipal manager Harry Riva Cambrin said it will likely cost around $300,000 to provide services to the site.
The MD will draft an agreement that would see the building and land returned to the municipality if the school is ever moved to another location. The school division will also have to pay for the value of the land and servicing.
MD Reeve Larry Spilak said council is supportive of the online school and homeschooling centre being located on MD land, but had concerns what would happen with the land and building if the school’s needs outgrow the building.
“If that property becomes anything other than a school it will revert back to us,” he said.
CRCS assistant superintendent Vince Van Hyfte said the school division is excited to be able to move ahead with construction of the building.
They have been working on getting a new location for their online and home school campus for about a year. He said they have most the money set aside in reserves, but will require more funding from the Province for the school project.
Van Hyfte said they were considering another location in the Heritage Pointe area, but at an open house some people were opposed. He also told MD council some other municipalities are not open to school applications, because they don’t pay taxes.
Their online school and homeschooling program is currently run out of two homes in downtown Okotoks that have been converted into office space.
“They are very small, tight, cramped offices,” Van Hyfte said. “There is no room for expansion there.”
There are 2,043 students enrolled in the online school St. Paul’s Academy and another 630 home school students access the Centre for Learning at Home. The current school facility is rarely visited by students, but is home to about 50 teachers and staff.
Teachers currently hold live online classes from a desk in a closet, in the basement or from their desks,
He said some teachers work from home and staff also has been spread amongst other buildings because of a lack of space.
Van Hyfte said the online school opened 14 years ago and has been experiencing astronomical growth, particularly over the last few years.
He said the school not only serves students from the foothills, but from around the world. The school appeals to students who may want to progress faster, concentrate on a sport or music, or are ex-patriots living in another country temporarily with their parents.
School division officials said the parcel in the MD was ideal because it is centrally located for many of its employees.
Students access the school from their personal computers at home, but when the new school is built there are plans for a large gathering place and officials also hope to access the nearby field house, currently under construction.
“We can offer far better service, a better gathering place,” he said. “Our recreation facilities will be growth. It will be a much more collegial environment.”
The school currently has sports teams and social events such as a travel club and family picnic days. He said the new school will assist in facilitating those activities.
It will also give southern Alberta students a place to do standardized testing, Van Hyfte said.
The school division now needs to apply for building permits and finalize its architect’s plans for the building.
Van Hyfte said they want to open the new building, which will be called the St. Paul Centre, in the summer of 2014.
Charlotte Feluch’s oldest child is a graduate of the online school and her two daughters are currently enrolled in a mix of the home school and online programs.
She said the new facility is badly needed and believes it will open lots of new opportunities for students.
“We could have a science lab class there, or an art lesson and invite an artist,” Feluch said.
Her children are enrolled in extra curricular activities through the school, such as archery, basketball and also go on field trips.
This new facility will allow the school division to expand on what they offer and allow for students to come together more often as a class.
“They can have a lot of activities, but they can still feel isolated,” she said.
This facility will also provide space for writing diploma exams, for example, Feluch said.
“This facility will be phenomenal for these kids,” she said. “Now we have to beg, borrow and steal facilities.”