News / Edmonton

Are higher taxes the solution to Edmonton’s high school shortage?

Public Interest Alberta says yes; school board and education minister say they’re confident needs will be met.

Edmonton Public School Board Chair Michelle Draper.

Kevin Tuong / Metro

Edmonton Public School Board Chair Michelle Draper.

An Alberta group is calling for higher taxes to solve a looming high school shortage in Edmonton.

“If we don’t fix the tax revenue situation in the next two-to-three years, we’re going to have to start considering some pretty radical changes to how we provide public services, and they won’t be things that people like,” said Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French.

French said if Albertans want to keep up with high school construction, our government will have to look at a sales tax or higher income taxes to finance more schools.

Edmonton Public Schools projects in its 2018-21 capital plan that the number of students will likely exceed available school space by the 2021–22 school year, and the district will peak at 30,000 students around 2025.

That will require 8,000 more spaces, with the biggest crunch on the far south side.

The school board’s top priority is a Heritage Valley school that would hold 2,400 students and cost close to $90 million.

But the district will need at least five new high schools to meet its projected needs, and none of them have been approved for funding yet.

Board chair Michelle Draper said several ideas are being floated to deal with the lack of space – including having some students take classes in evenings, offering more courses online and throughout the summer, and having more students travel from school to school for different classes.

Draper said students will not be forced into any of those options, however.

“It’s our top priority to get new schools built, absolutely. Are there other ways? That’s what we’re exploring,” she said.

Education Minister David Eggen said the province is committed to building as many schools as needed.

“As long as I’m the education minister we’re going to be building schools to meet the needs of students all the way,” Eggen said.

More on