The idea to create this school specifically for academically gifted students began with parents from Strathcona County discussing the needs of gifted children with parents from Calgary, especially in response to the Government of Alberta’s educational reforms and cutbacks. Calgary offered the Gifted and Talented Education (G.A.T.E.) program within its public school system. Parents in Strathcona County envisioned a similar education program to meet the unique needs of their gifted children. Eventually, an educational package to form the basis of New Horizons School was developed by an educator (who was also a parent of children who had been enrolled in the G.A.T.E. program), in consultation with a number of educators.
The Government of Alberta introduced charter school legislation in 1994 and in 1995 the Education for the Gifted Society of Strathcona County was formed and an application was made to establish New Horizons School. (A more detailed history of the Education for the Gifted Society of Strathcona County is available.)
The Education for the Gifted Society of Strathcona County was granted its first Charter, under the Elk Island Public Schools system, and opened New Horizons School in September of 1995. Staff, along with 79 students and their families, began the journey of developing a school that would enable academically gifted students to achieve excellence in an environment that supports the students’ unique intellectual, social and emotional needs. The Principal, 1 full-time teacher and 5 part-time teachers taught the students in Kindergarten through Grade 9 who were organized into three multi-grade ‘pods’, as they were called.
In its first year of operation (1995-1996), New Horizons School was located in the Park Professional Centre, an office building, at 1604 Sherwood Drive in Sherwood Park, Alberta. One reason for choosing this location was because of its close proximity to amenities (such as the public library and the Recreation and Parks gymnasium) required to fulfill the school’s curriculum responsibilities.
The name New Horizons and the school’s first logo were created, in the fall of 1995, by a student who participated in the school’s contest to develop a name and logo for the new school. New Horizons School’s logo has changed twice since then.
During the second school year (1996-1997), New Horizons expanded to include more space in the lower level of the building and 102 students in Grades 1-9 were organized into multi-grade pods. Kindergarten was not offered that year due to low enrollment. In the fall of 1996, the Board began a search for a more appropriate facility as difficulties were being experienced at the existing location, such as a lack of playground space, unavailability of rental facilities in other schools, and complaints from other building tenants about the inevitable noise made by 102 students.
In August 1997, New Horizons School moved to the location of 3 Spruce Avenue in Sherwood Park. This building had been the Robin Hood School, built in 1968, and was leased to New Horizons by the Robin Hood Association. More than 80 parents and teachers spent hundreds of hours volunteering to prepare the building for the new school year. In its third year of operation, New Horizons saw its student enrollment increase to 150, including Kindergarten.
The facility on Spruce Avenue was in need of renovation, there were not enough classrooms to allow for one room per grade (even after portables were added), and there were no special instruction rooms for music, art, science, computers, and other uses. The facility had a gymnasium, kitchen, library (basically a closet), and administrative areas; however, these spaces were approximately one-third to one-half the size recommended in the School Infrastructure Manual and were therefore inadequate to meet student and administrative needs. This school also had no playground area of its own so New Horizons arranged to share playground space with an adjacent Elk Island Catholic School.
In its fifth year of operation (1999-2000), New Horizons School no longer operated in conjunction with the Elk Island Public Schools Division but rather began reporting directly to the Alberta Minister of Education. The Elk Island Public Schools Board of Trustees decided not to renew the school’s charter with their Board because of concerns with the charter school legislation and regulations.
In 2001, the school’s Society changed its name from Education for the Gifted Society of Strathcona County to New Horizons Charter School Society.
In 2008, instead of renewing the building lease with New Horizons School, the Robin Hood Association decided to renovate the building and use it as a Children and Youth Community Centre. Therefore, in 2008, after much work by dedicated School Board Directors and Administration to find another facility, New Horizons School moved to its third location of 53145 Range Road 222 in Ardrossan, Alberta.
The New Horizons School Kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2 classrooms, as well as the washrooms, infirmary, small storage rooms, and the staff room are located in a sub-leased area of the Ardrossan Elementary School building. New Horizons does not have its own gymnasium, but rather shares gymnasiums with Ardrossan Elementary. A hallway was added on to the Ardrossan Elementary building to connect it to modular rooms containing the New Horizons School office, the Grades 3-9 classrooms, a music/art room, a library, and a computer room.
Currently, the school is fortunate to have stable and dedicated Administrative leadership with the Superintendent, the Secretary Treasurer and the Principal each having been in their roles longer than any of their predecessors. Mr. Fred de Kleine was hired as the Secretary Treasurer in 2000, Mr. Jim Rigby was hired as the Superintendent in 2005, and Mr. Ted Zarowny was hired as the Principal in 2006.