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Province kicks in $3 million for Jack James renos to bring in Louise Dean students

Renovations on Jack James are expected to begin in the coming months, Hack said.

The Alberta government will be investing more than $3 million into the renovations at a southeast Calgary high school to ensure a smooth transition for Louise Dean School students.

The money, announced Wednesday at Jack James High School, will be directed at areas that improve the safety and discretion of students transitioning to the new school. The total project cost is $7 million, with the additional capital being covered by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE).

Last November, the CBE voted to relocate the Louise Dean School in Kensington to Jack James High School in Forest Lawn. They said the existing Kensington site needed substantial repair, plus Jack James provided more programming options and social supports for students expecting or caring for small children.  They also saw a decline in teen moms enrolling in the program.

The Louise Dean School provided education for pregnant girls and teen mothers in Grades 9 to 12.  According to the CBE, the new setup will also allow teen fathers to attend Jack James and be more involved in a child’s upbringing.

Among the improvements slated for the school are the construction of a separate entrance and card access controls on interior doors to ensure the safety of students and children. There will also be a separate childcare space and dedicated parking for young moms.

The province is also providing $35,000 to top up transportation funding to assist moms with transit passes or taxi chits.

“While the school has gone through different iterations, the goal remains the same, allowing each young parent to reach their maximum potential, which is something the school’s namesake would fully support,” said Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

Safety and learning are priorities, says CBE chair

CBE Board Chair Laura Hack said that when the board approved the relocation, they wanted to provide more learning opportunities, but also ensure the potential growth of onsite services and supports.

There’s additional capacity at the Jack James High School to do those things, Hack said.

“This investment will contribute to the necessary adjustments that need to be made to prepare to welcome students from Louise Dean school in the 2024 2025 school year,” Hack said.

The programming to support pregnant and parenting teens is done in partnership with Kindred and Alberta Health Services.

Jessica Cope Williams, co-CEO of Kindred, said their partnership with the CBE began more than 50 years ago. This is another step forward in that work, Williams said.

“We are confident today, more than ever, that by working together, we will ensure that young parents will experience at Jack James, the same sense of safety, respect and dignity they’ve always experienced at Louise Dean, with some additional benefits that make their lives easier and better,” she said.

Chair Hack addressed questions about the safety of students and their children. She acknowledged some of the renovations that are happening but added that safety expectations extend to all students at all schools.

“I think all of our all of our high schools and all of our buildings, we’re always being welcoming, caring, respectful, and having safe learning environments and that’s not going to change,” she said.  

“Jack James is a wonderful school with wonderful staff who have our commitment in that and that will be no difference when we welcome the Louise Dean students here as well.”

Louise Dean School was first opened in 1969.