By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Two days after Alberta’s Minister of Education met with GSACRD board members, MorinvilleNews.com has learned some of what was discussed behind closed doors.
In a letter from Minister Hancock to the delegation of parents seeking a secular education for their children in Morinville’s public schools, Hancock indicated GSACRD made three commitments to him: Ensuring a “clear and impartial survey is taken of parents in Morinville to determine the extent of interest in secular education”, and entering into further discussions with Sturgeon School Division No. 24 about “the possibility of a secular program offered within the town boundaries of Morinville.” Additionally, GSACRD committed to meeting with the group of Morinville parents to discuss short-, medium- and long-term solutions, something GSACRD Board Chair Lauri-Ann Turnbull made clear to reporters after her and her board’s meeting with the Minister of Education Mar. 23.
In his letter, Minister Hancock acknowledged the parents rights to a secular education for their children, but said the issue is how that education would be provided, given no one has a clear understanding of how many parents in the Morinville area would be interested in a secular education for their children.
“Depending on the number of students who will be enrolled in that program, the avenues available to the GSACRD board to offer a secular education program vary considerably,” Minister Hancock wrote.
Donna Hunter, spokesperson for the parent delegation said the news in the minister’s letter shows a great possibility to move forward; however, she still has some concerns.
“There remains the paramount issue of guaranteed public secular education provided with full electoral rights and residency no matter the number of students and parents requesting it,” Hunter said in an e-mail interview Friday morning. “We will not be satisfied until this happens.”
Hunter said the ultimate point of discussion is what the long-term plan will be, but a clear and impartial census is the short term first step.
“We look forward to finalizing all the questions on how secular education will be provided to GSACRD residents,” she said. “We will be forwarding all progress, timelines and decisions to the Minister and expecting GSACRD’s full collaboration with involved parents and Sturgeon School Division, as well as the Minister’s monitoring of the process.”
Hunter said she was pleased the Minister of Education acknowledged the parent’s right to a secular education and is hoping and expecting a secular education program to be in place in Morinville for the fall.