08/27/2013 03:54 EDT | Updated 10/27/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta flooding delays arrival of portables in overcrowded Saskatchewan schools

REGINA - Some students in overcrowded Saskatchewan schools will be starting their first day of classes in gyms, libraries and even a church because of flooding in Alberta.

Thirty-six portable classrooms that the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education ordered aren't ready.

Assistant deputy minister of education Donna Johnson said Tuesday that the units were supposed to be in place in September.

"And then with the flooding that was experienced in Alberta, the supplier had to be able to provide classrooms to the Alberta classrooms that were essentially wiped out of their system."

Flooding in Alberta in June forced thousands from their homes and caused billions of dollars in damages. Alberta Premier Alison Redford has said provincial estimates show well over $5 billion will be needed to rebuild infrastructure in the province.

Johnson said Saskatchewan is sympathetic to Alberta's needs.

"We can always find ourselves in a situation where we're needing to look towards Alberta to be flexible to meet Saskatchewan's demands."

The portables were ordered for eight school divisions that have more students because Saskatchewan's population is growing.

Johnson said the province is looking at the possibility of building new schools but the portables deal with the need faster.

Regina Catholic School Division spokesman Noah Wernikowski said schools "really need the extra space." Some schools in the city are at 150 per cent capacity, he added.

The division is waiting for seven portables to arrive.

"In the meantime, before we get these portables set up, we're going to have to house the classes that are displaced by the tardiness of these portables in libraries and multi-purpose rooms, gymnasiums," said Wernikowski.

"We're looking at even housing some students in a church that's close by to one of our schools."

The portables could be ready in Regina in a few weeks but it may be November before they're in place across the province.

This is the first time school divisions have had to go through the ministry to order portables. School divisions used to build or order their own portables with funding from the province.

The plan was that more money could be saved by ordering in bulk.

But Wernikowski said the school division believes it could have had the portables in place sooner if it had autonomy over the process.

"We've never been late for the portables we've constructed ourselves," he said.