After more than two and a half years in the making, the Gasoline Alley Career High School is officially open and its envied accessibility just off Highway 2 is already attracting increased interest from young adults seeking academic upgrading.
“We are so thrilled with the location. It is not a busy location and there is lots of parking,” said Daryl Brown, principal of Gasoline Alley Career High School. “One of the things that was a big issue was when we moved out of the City of Red Deer it was a lot more difficult for students to get out to Penhold because there was no public transportation.
“Now that we are in Gasoline Alley we have public transportation, and our numbers are starting to rapidly climb again because students can access us easier,” added Brown, who is in charge of all five career high schools administered by the Chinook’s Edge School Division. “I would say there are a little over 150 students registered in the school and probably 120 actively in and out of that building on a regular basis.”
The school’s origins go back more than two decades to when it was located in Red Deer’s River Glen School and called the Chinook’s Edge Career High-Red Deer Area Campus.
Following a major jurisdictional change in 2013, the school’s students began attending classes from grades 9 to 12 at Penhold Crossing Secondary School until the Gasoline Alley building was ready this year. It has and continues to serve students from all over the region, including those attending college at the same time.
“We have actually picked up a number of Red Deer College students who are just upgrading courses,” said Brown. “We are right on that beautiful corridor for them, so the college is actually sending students our way to upgrade courses so they can get into programs.”
The official grand opening for the new institution, located along Leva Avenue just east of Costco, was held on Feb. 25. It featured the attendance of Holly Bilton, trustee for Ward 4; Sherry Cooper, trustee for Ward 2; Colleen Butler, chair of the board; and Kurt Sacher, the division’s superintendent of schools.
Brown said the construction cost for the new facility was completed under budget, from an original estimate of $300,000 to a final figure of around $200,000.
He said the Gasoline Alley school, which is about 2,200 square feet in size, features one large classroom that can accommodate a maximum of 40 students. Brown said the facility also has two breakout rooms, one designed for students to work more independently. There is also office space for a family school wellness worker.
The new Gasoline Alley Career High School, which is open on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. — except Wednesdays when the building is open until 7 p.m. — is staffed by two full-time teachers and one who is part-time, as well as one full-time administration support worker and a part-time family school wellness worker.
“Honestly, I’ve always loved this school and now the new setting is even more awesome,” said Grade 12 student Sara Breemersch, who has been with the school since Grade 10. “The reason I’ve been able to take my entire high school here is because the staff makes sure I am successful.
“I work full-time, and they’ve made it possible for me to still complete school and prepare for college,” she added. “There are less distractions here, lots of individual teacher time, and the ability to go at my own pace.”
In the meantime, Brown said although the career high school students and staff have left Penhold Crossing Secondary School after 18 months, a strong relationship remains between the two institutions.
“We now go there every week and meet with the students that we still have blended programs with, students that pick up a course with us but still go to the traditional school,” he said, noting he’s going to the Penhold school this month to teach Grade 10 students first aid. “We still have a number of blended students at Penhold Crossing, and we don’t want to forget about our brothers and sisters in that traditional building.”
“Now that we are in Gasoline Alley we have public transportation, and our numbers are starting to rapidly climb again because students can access us easier.”