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Calgary inner-city school closure could be short-sighted, warns community

At first glance, the closure of Rosscarrock Elementary School might seem like a prudent choice, but the community association is worried that the school board isn’t looking at the long-term picture.

The 23-classroom building which houses K-6 students is under consideration for closure. Last September, only 109 regular students were enrolled at the school, and that number dropped to 106, meaning the school is at 31 per cent of its overall capacity.

Carrie Edwards, director of property, planning and transportation with the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) said Rosscarrock had been accepting overflow students from two other schools temporarily, but now those students have gone back to their designated schools.

She said luckily, there are two nearby schools that have the capacity to accept Rosscarrock’s students.

“The proposal is that we send the kids to Glendale School or Wildwood School,” said Edwards. “They’re schools in adjacent communities that have space to take in these students, and all of our students at Rosscarrock would be within walking distance to one of those schools.”

The problem with that, according to Christine Reynolds, is that those plans force the kids to cross busy main arteries – either 17 Avenue SW or Bow Trail.

Reynolds doesn’t live in the community, but she has run Creative Discoveries Preschool for the past 18 years. She also now hosts before and after care at Rosscarrock School.

Rosscarrock is in the city’s southwest, just west of 33 Street, north of 17 Ave, and south of Bow Trail. BRODIE THOMAS / LIVEWIRE

“We have a high concentration of very new Canadians with very little English,” said Reynolds, adding that there are also a lot of low-income families in the area as well.

She notes that they often don’t have access to a vehicle, or if they do it’s used by the family’s primary breadwinner to get to work.

She said this more vulnerable population is definitely deserving of the school and community building that comes with it.

“They really need that smaller class environment and caring teachers, where you have a personal relationship with the administration and the staff,” said Reynolds.

“I’ve had so many parents say to me – what’s a community without a school in it?”

That’s exactly the question that Rosscarrock’s community association is also asking. Ron Waters, the association president, echoed Reynolds’ concerns about the many new Canadians in the community, but he’s also worried about a predicted change in demographics.

He said the city is already pushing densification and has created programs like the Main Streets initiative to help bolster that.

As a community just outside the city’s defined “inner city” and as a community that borders two of the main streets, Waters thinks the school will be full again in less than a decade.

“We know that densification is going to be strong,” he said. “This projection of population for our community – in just a few years we’re going to hit a 100 per cent increase in terms of the current population – so a doubling.”

Source: City of Calgary

The 2014 population of just over 3,400 could go up 200 per cent by the end of the next decade, meaning a population of more than 10,000 people, according to the city’s projections.

Waters himself lives in an infill that has four families where, a generation ago, there was only a single family home. Infills and apartment buildings are going up all over, and he believes young families aren’t far behind.

He thinks the CBE should make a small investment in keeping the school open for a few years, or to find another use for it – such as hosting a science and technology-focused program.

“If you pull away from your core, cities become dead,” said Waters.

“And that’s not what Calgary wants to do. It’s not what the City of Calgary wants to do, and it’s not what Rosscarrock wants to do. We want to enliven our community. Obviously having a school Is part of that.”