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EDITORIAL: Sites are there when schools are required

Eschewing piecemeal development in favour of large-scale planning ensures Okotoks has sites when schools need to be built.
NEWS-FCHS School BWC 2323 web
A second high school is needed in Okotoks.

There’s something to be said for large-scale developments. 

The prospect of adding thousands of residents to this or any town can prove worrisome for some, but there’s no denying that a well-planned subdivision has its advantages. Mapping out a significant plot of land not only earmarks future residential neighbourhoods, but it also identifies sites for all the other amenities required to support such development. 

The reason that’s important was evident in last week’s provincial government announcement on school construction funding, which saw Christ the Redeemer School Division learn that it will get a new school in the D’Arcy subdivision to replace Good Shepherd School, while the Foothills School Division received funding to plan for a second high school in town, this one in the Wedderburn neighbourhood. 

There are compelling cases to be made for the construction of both schools, which is why they earned government favour, but without the sites on which to build them, provincial funding doesn’t materialize. Lack of sites has proved to be a major stumbling block in other communities where new schools are desperately needed, and that’s due to inadequate town planning. 

From a public perception standpoint, it’s far less daunting to add 50 houses here and another 50 over there, but this kind of piecemeal development typically creates problems as no single parcel ends up being big enough to accommodate a school, despite the fact that many of the new houses contain school-age kids. 

Thankfully, Okotoks has taken a longer-range approach that is paying dividends. It's why there were sites available in D’Arcy and Wedderburn when schools were needed in those areas and why a site has been identified in the Tillotson development proposal now in the works in the southwest part of town. 

When looked at in their entirety, these projects can give some people reason for pause as they’re as large, or larger, as some nearby communities, but this master planning exercise ensures that land for schools will be there when it’s needed.