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Edmonton Islamic Academy fundraising for new school campus

The new campus will be located close to the current school in the Baranow neighbourhood in northwest Edmonton.  (Submitted by Abraham Abougouche - image credit)
The new campus will be located close to the current school in the Baranow neighbourhood in northwest Edmonton. (Submitted by Abraham Abougouche - image credit)

This spring, the Edmonton Islamic Academy plans to break ground on a new campus for elementary students.

The academy has already purchased and prepared the land they need for the new campus.

The school's prinicipal, Abraham Abougouche, said the academy is expecting a zoning permit from the city in the coming weeks that would rezone the commercial property into an institutional educational property.

After the property has received its zoning permit, the school will request permission from Alberta Education to open a new school.

Construction is expected to start this spring.

Abougouche said the design for the elementary school is inspired by Islamic architecture with classrooms facing Mecca, the holy city in Saudi Arabia. The school will have scriptures on the walls, small gardens and sitting areas.

The project is estimated to cost about $80 million and aims to be open for the September 2025 term.

The Academy is located on 127th Street in northwest Edmonton. The new campus is proposed to be about three minutes away on 151st Avenue.

The project is estimated to cost about $80 million and aims to be open for the September 2025 term.
The project is estimated to cost about $80 million and aims to be open for the September 2025 term.

The project is estimated to cost about $80 million and aims to be open for the September 2025 term. (Submitted by Abraham Abougouche)

According to Statistics Canada's 2021 census of population, 83,015 people in Edmonton identify as Muslim.

With the growing Muslim population, Abougouche said he has seen the need for more space over the past few years.

The academy is a K-12 and has a population of over 2,000 students.

"There's a strong demand for increased classrooms and more faith-based education, in particular, Islamic education here in Edmonton," Abougouche said.

"As the population grows here in Edmonton, so does the community. And with more students there are more needs."

The school's waitlist has names of over 1,000 students and more are added to it daily.

The new K-6 campus is projected to have 1,600 students.

Abougouche said some students have been on the waitlist for almost six years.

Some of these students choose home education and wait for a spot to open up or go to other schools in the city.

"The need really comes from the growth in our population and the lack of schools within the city, and the inflated classrooms within the city," he said.

"Parents are just looking for a quality option where they can enrol their children."

In 2018, Salma Kiani and her family moved from Baltimore, Md., to Edmonton so her two children could attend the Edmonton Islamic Academy.

"It aligns with our values, especially my values as a Canadian Muslim," Kiani said.

Her two children, Adam,10, and five-year-old Idris, are students at the school.

Adam was enrolled before the school had a waiting list, and Kiani enrolled Idris to the school's pre-K program.

Kiani said she's hoping the expansion will make it easier for her youngest child to be enrolled in the school.

"If there wasn't a new expansion then I would be worried," she said.

Growing up in Edmonton, Kiani said she never had in-school events that celebrated her cultural identity.

She said the school helps her children have pride in both their culture and their faith.

Pride in culture and faith

Farhan Chak, chair of the Edmonton Islamic Academy's new school project, told CBC's Edmonton AM the community has come together to raise funds for the expansion.

As an independent private school, fundraising for the new campus has to be done without government funding, and without access to grants.

"Various stakeholders are going to be invited and asked to support the construction of this elementary campus,"  Abougouche said.

"It's going to be very difficult but we believe that we have the interest, the means and the resources within our community, within the greater Edmonton community to do this."

To adhere to Islamic finances, contributions to the fundraiser can also be made with a interest-free loan. Some Muslims observe religious restrictions that forbid paying or earning interest.

The school will pay the exact amount back to the lender at a later date.

The school is holding an event on January 26 featuring keynote speakers and a live fundraising session to officially launch their fundraiser.