Then & Now

Spruce Grove Composite High School: Tracing the evolution of the Path To Higher Learning

September, 2019

The road to Spruce Grove Composite High School was by no means a quick and easy one. As a growing rural community in the early 20th century, Spruce Grove found itself in need of a high school and in 1935, the one-roomed Spruce Grove Rural High School No. 17 was built along King Street. By 1949, students were being bussed to the new and much more spacious Memorial Composite High School in Stony Plain where they would stay until 1969 when the first Spruce Grove Composite High School (now École Broxton Park School) was built. Finally, in 1982, the school that we all know today as Spruce Grove Composite High School opened its doors for its first academic year, helping to alleviate the accommodation issues that had plagued the community’s education system for the past 50 years.


The official grand opening of Spruce Grove Composite High school took place on Tuesday, April 27, 1982. It was a day for students and staff to explore in awe the school’s newest state of the art luxuries and amenities. Student’s found it “hard to accept” the fact that they would now have an entire lounge and separate cafeteria after previously spending their free time in the entrances and overcrowded lunchrooms of the old Composite High School. A few of the new classes included business education, science and green house, and visual communications. The school also featured a new and improved art room, music facility, library, theatre, and the following year, a micro-computer to assist with scheduling, attendance, and report cards.

Unfortunately, less than a week earlier, Parkland County filed a $1,033,434 lawsuit against the school’s architect, Douglas Cardinal Architect Ltd. and builder, Stuart Olson Construction Ltd., an action that wasn’t made public until it was reported by The Spruce Grove Examiner on April 21. The suit claimed that work on the $11-million-dollar school was “incomplete,” was “done contrary to plans and specifications” and was “shoddy and defective.” It also mentioned 16 complaints including uneven floors, improper gas lines, and the entire building being lower than originally contracted.


At the end of the 2000s, a movement was spreading across Alberta’s education sector with the intent of dissolving the century-old Carnegie Unit, which required students to complete a specific amount of classroom time. But the decision did not take into consideration those students who needed more time to learn and others who needed less. In 2009, Spruce Grove Composite High School, led by Principal Darlene Marcinkevics, was one of 16 provincial schools to participate in a four-year High School Flexibility Enhancement Pilot Project, which explored more flexible programs for students.

Each pilot school was free to experiment and identify creative solutions that would work for their facility, and at the end of the four-year program the goal was to combine key points from each site for other schools to consider. One of the experiments which proved to be beneficial at SGCHS was a 40-minute, lecture-free block incorporated into the end of each school day where students could freely choose which subjects required additional attention.


In an effort to create a better relationship between the RCMP and the community, a formal agreement was made in 2011 between the Town of Stony Plain, the City of Spruce Grove, and Parkland County and Parkland School Division in order to hire a dedicated RCMP School Resource Officer (SRO). The SRO would serve the students of the Tri-Municipal Region’s two public high schools–Spruce Grove Composite High School and Memorial Composite High School–on a three-year contract.

Sgt. Patricia Chornoby began her position in September of that year as a confidant and mentor, educator and counsellor, and role model and protector dedicated to providing a safe and caring learning environment in the schools by balancing prevention, intervention, education, and enforcement–in addition to fulfilling duties as a police officer.

In October 2013, the school announced a partnership with Goodwill Industries soon after the non-profit expanded its Spruce Grove donation centre into a full retail operation. The partnership has since connected SGCHS students to the community at large while raising money for their school. All funds that have been received by the school have been invested into student focused initiatives such as the school’s library café.


More than 1,000 students are enrolled today under the wing of new SGCHS Principal Cheryl Otto. But as Spruce Grove continues to grow, so too does the need for more educational space. In April, an Edmonton Public Schools Infrastructure report stated that a
modernization of Spruce Grove Composite High School will be a top priority in the near future. EPS estimates that either the school’s capacity needs to be increased, or an entirely new high school needs to be built in the area. The Parkland School Division’s board of trustees have since approved a three-year capital plan, with the year one priority of securing a $20-25 million modernization for SGCHS. t7x

In 2014, five years after SGCHS began the High School Flexibility Enhancement Project, now referred to as High School Redesign, the school had a 6.3 percent higher completion rate, 1.2 percent lower dropout rate, and was 3.6 percent above the average diploma acceptability. By the time Principal Marcinkevics was preparing for her retirement in 2016 after 36 years as SGCHS, the school’s completion rate was 83 percent–up from 72 percent in 2007, and its dropout rate had decreased from 4.3 percent to 2.2 percent.