Ceiling collapse forces Calgary charter school to relocate 300 students

Foundations for the Future Charter Academy High School Campus must move hundreds of students after a ceiling collapse. Thursday, August 20, 2020. Brendan Miller/Postmedia

Part of a northwest Calgary charter high school will potentially be closed for years after a ceiling collapsed in July, displacing a third of its 900 students while the building is replaced.

A portion of the Foundations for the Future Charter Academy (FFCA) in the community of Montgomery is unsafe to occupy after a storm in early July caused portions of the suspended ceiling grid to drop in multiple spots.

The school was previously the Calgary Board of Education’s Montgomery School, now leased by the FFCA.

“As soon as we were made aware, engineers went in and took a look and essentially prohibited anyone from entering the building until such time that the walls can be shored up to allow safe re-entry,” said Jeff Wilson, chair of the FFCA board.

It’s a process that could take years, leading to the FFCA signing a four-year lease with the CBE to use the Dr. Norman Bethune building in Acadia to house about 300 displaced students.

“As a portion of this school will not be usable for the 2020-2021 school year, the CBE has offered to lease another school building (Dr. Norman Bethune) to the charter school to temporarily accommodate a portion of the school population until such time as the replacement school is completed,” the CBE said in a statement.

High school students at FFCA who live in north Calgary will continue to attend school in Montgomery, while those who live in the city’s south will now go to school in Acadia.

Structural issues at Montgomery School have been known since 2014, when it was determined the site “wasn’t necessarily safe for a school,” Wilson said.

The school requested funding at the time to fix the problems but did not receive

government approval to replace the high school

until March 2019, a delay Wilson blamed on the then-NDP government.

The new high school isn’t expected to be completed for about four years.

Wilson said the situation could be difficult for some students who will be separated from their friends, particularly during the novel coronavirus pandemic and changes to the school setting.

“It’s certainly disappointing that we have to deal with this outcome when it was clearly described that this could be a potential outcome six years ago,” he said. “Given that we’re doing it through the lens of COVID and re-entry is just adding some major stress to students and staff in a time when they’ve got a lot of other things on their minds.”

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