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Updated: 10th September 2018 05:04

North Calgary parents, students protest decade-long wait for new high school

Nearly 100 Calgary parents and students held a rally in north-central Calgary on Sunday afternoon to protest what they say has been more than a decade-long wait for a high school in the community.

The area has a population of 120,000, but no high school

Families protest on the site of a future high school in north-central Calgary on Sunday. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Nearly 100 Calgary parents and students held a rally in north-central Calgary on Sunday afternoon to protest what they say has been more than a decade-long wait for a high school in the community.

"We're hoping the CBE trustees recognize how much of a need this is. It would be full opening day," said David Hartwick, the vice-president and advocacy director for the Northern Hills Community Association. 

The north-side population without a public high school has ballooned to 120,000 people, and they've been waiting since 2004, Hartwick said.

David Hartwick is the advocacy director for the Northern Hills Community Association. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

The proposed North Calgary High School's catchment area in the CBE plans covers the 70,000 people living in Hidden Valley, Coventry Hills, Panorama Hills, Harvest Hills, Country Hills and Country Hills Village, Hartwick said.

Community members estimate the school would have 1,800 teens enrolled once it opens.

In comparison, the population of Airdrie is approximately 60,000 people, and the city has three public high schools. 

The closest high schools are Crescent Heights or John G. Diefenbaker — about 60 blocks away, and approximately an hour by bus for most students from the community each way.

Hartwick's daughter is set to graduate high school this year. She went to Crescent Heights, but eventually switched to the Catholic school system so she could enrol in classes closer to home. 

"The commute was killing her, she was super sleep deprived," he said.

The rally was held on the site selected for the future high school, across the street from Nose Creek Middle School in Coventry Hills. 

Andrew Yule has been waiting for a north-central Calgary school since 2004, when he graduated high school. He's now hoping it will be built in time for his 10-year-old son Grayson to attend. The pair attended a protest at the site of the future school. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Andrew Yule graduated high school in 2004. He attended the protest carrying a sign reading, "This school was supposed to be approved when I was in high school." 

He's hoping the school will finally be built by the time his 10-year-old son, Grayson, is in high school in five years.

"Five years is really close, so we really need to start working quickly if we want this to happen for my son," he said.

Grade 9 student Maja Ruszkowska is headed to Crescent Heights High School next year, where she says she'll have to spend an hour each way on the city bus.

"It's too late for me, but I feel like they have a good chance to have a high school close by," she said of younger students at the rally.

Maja Ruszkowska is in Grade 9, and will be attending Crescent Heights High School. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

CBE Trustee Althea Adams said the school has moved up to number three in the priority list in the 2019 capital budget plan up from eighth place in 2018.

"It's been a process. Calgary has, obviously, had a lot of growing pains," Adams said. "Every year they do the census and things shift around."

New schools are usually announced each spring, and Adams estimates the earliest a northern Calgary school would likely be announced would be next year.

With files from Terri Trembath

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