Okotoks is getting a new school.

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced $2.3 billion in funding for school projects, including a replacement for École Good Shepherd School.

Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools (CTR) had requested funding after determining that extensive remediation would be needed to maintain the current building.

Good Shepherd’s principal Jacealyn Hempel explains how they reached the conclusion that a new building was in order.

“Studies revealed that it was just as expensive and far more disruptive to student learning and safety to attempt to remediate the school’s structural issues. Roof structures needed remediation, which meant the walls and foundation needed to be rebuilt. That remediation would require us to tear each wing down, wing by wing, and rebuild. It’s not good for our students, we’d have to move students from one wing to another, so learning loss would happen, and it’s not as safe.”

With funding now in place for an entirely new building, it’ll allow the division to make use of the current one until the new Good Shepherd is complete.

Hempel says they’ll be sure to maintain the current building’s safety standards as long as it’s still being used.

“We will keep up our school for the two and a half to three years before our other school will be built, we’ll continue to ensure the current building is safe.”

The replacement project is receiving full construction funding and is one of only 13 projects across Alberta to receive that funding, with others getting only design, planning, or pre-planning funding.

The new school is to be built in the D’Arcy Ranch Subdivision and will address the high levels of enrollment they've been seeing, says Hempel.

“We’ve had some enrollment challenges due to the fact that it’s a very high-performing academic facility, but we’ll soon have a facility that can accommodate all the students who want that Catholic education in French immersion and English, so families can register even now, knowing we’ll have that space in the future.”

She says construction could begin as soon as a year from now, and the division is optimistic that it will be open in two to three years.

CTR will be consulting with the community on design components of the school with an “influencers engagement night” planned for March 21.

“You’ll what to hear about our large gym we’re looking to build with natural light, you might hear about how there are more classrooms to accommodate class sizes between 18 and 24, and another really neat thing is that the board has over $1 million in reserves to enhance the gym for school and community use. It’s definitely worth coming to hear a little more, getting some ideas, and allowing us to consult with the community, staff, and parents.”

With full construction funding and the possibility of a new school up and running in just a few years, Hempel says they're just delighted.

"The students are thrilled. The teachers, when we first heard, everyone was elated. One little boy in grade one said, 'thank you from the bottom of our whole hearts.'"