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North Calgary High School rally hopes to push the building into Alberta budget

David Hartwick started advocating for a new North Calgary High School when his kids were four and seven.

Hartwick’s then-four-year-old is now entering her second year at university.

Still, he and like-minded community advocates continue fighting for a new high school in North Calgary in a city ward with 71,000 people and no nearby place for teens to go to public school.

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The Advocates for North Calgary High School (ANCHS) are planning a rally Sunday evening to continue raising awareness of the need for a high school in the area – ranked number two on the Calgary Board of Education’s capital plan.

Hartwick said the need for a school was recognized 15 years ago.

“The message we’ve always had is, it’s our turn. We’ve been waiting so long for this high school,” said Hartwick.

Some kids are bussed down to Crescent Heights to go to school; that leaves some teens on city buses for nearly three hours a day during the winter, he said.

Strong voice needed for North Calgary High School

With a provincial budget on the horizon – and on the heels of the MacKinnon Report he’s hoping their group can once again thrust the need for this school to the forefront.

“The north hasn’t really had a very strong voice at any level of government for a long time, and that’s really had an impact on us,” Hartwick said.

“We’re lacking all sorts of infrastructure.” Hartwick mentioned a since-shelved urgent care centre for the area, Green Line LRT extension to the far north regions of Calgary.

Hartwick said he believes now they have the political capital to get the job done.

“That’s changed in the last couple of years,” he said, noting support from the area city councillor, Jyoti Gondek, the current MLAs and members of parliament.

“We’ve got all these ducks in a row where people are actually speaking out that it’s time. It’s overdue. And I think that’s probably the biggest difference.”

Calgary Board of Education presentation slide.

Lack of political will to get school built

Coun. Gondek said there’s been various governments that have chosen not to move forward with the North Calgary High School, despite the desperate need. Even when money was available, she said there was no political will. Now, with an expected austerity budget from the province, Gondek’s not holding her breath.

“I would say that getting to the design phase was a big win for us,” she said.

“But without the actual money to build the school – it’s not something we’re hanging all our hopes on.”

Gondek said she’s been in regular contact with the area MLAs and they’re well aware of the need.

“So, I know we’ve got the support. But they’re going to have to convince their entire government that this is a priority.”

Even though his kids won’t get to use the school, Hartwick wants to stay involved. He wants to see the project through.

His first taste of education advocacy was helping get Coventry elementary built.

“That was a huge thing,” he said.

“And I was determined to get this high school built. And now it’s become such a passion for my community.”

20190702 North Calgary High School OpenHouse Presentation by Darren Krause on Scribd

Designs are underway for the planned 1,800-student school. The Calgary Board of Education held a community open house in June at which more than 300 people attended. In the CBE presentation, they noted that a school opening date won’t be announced until a contractor is hired and permits are approved.

School construction has not yet been approved.

The rally is Sunday, Sept. 15 between 5 and 6 p.m. at the proposed site for the new school – 12065 Coventry Hills Way NE.