By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – While the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional School Division (GSACRD) board is shopping around for potential education partners to deliver secular education to those Morinville families who want it, Sturgeon School Division’s (SSD) board says they are ready and willing to lend a hand.
Board Chair Terry Jewell said during Wednesday night’s board meeting the two boards met Apr. 20 to discuss the prospect.
“We clearly indicated to GSACRD that we’re interested and qualified and geographically located,” Jewell said. “I’d be disappointed if they wandered off 50 kilometres.”
But wandering away from the neighbouring school division is a possibility. Jewell said he was told by GSACRD the division is out shopping for a service provider, a revelation the board chair finds disappointing given the willingness of his division to offer a non-faith-based education to Morinville students.
Numbers will tell the tale
While the Catholic Public division is shopping around for potential educational partners, they are also waiting on the results of a survey that they believe will determine what the need in Morinville actually is. GSACRD recently contracted Pivotal Research to conduct an independent survey of parents who have children attending GSACRD’s Morinville schools as well as a random phone survey of no less than 400 residents to gauge the interest in a non-faith-based education in the town.
Surveys are scheduled to go home with students Friday night and results are expected to be revealed by the end of May.
The survey has come under criticism from those who are in support of a secular public education for the community because they feel its scope is not large enough to reflect the true needs and wishes of the community. It is a position SSD Chair Terry Jewell agrees with.
“When we’re counting noses we need to count all of the folks,” Jewell said Wednesday night. “Not a survey but a census.” Jewell said with his board’s meeting with Education minister Dave Hancock, it was his understanding the minister agreed with the point about a census.
But with a survey about to get under way and the school year rapidly coming to a close, time is running out to have a secular option in place by fall.
“Each day that goes by it becomes harder to provide a meaningful service to kids,” Jewell said, adding that at the end of the day it was the students that count.
Thee members of the parent delegation attended Wednesday night’s meeting to see if they could learn the outcome of the meeting between GSACRD and SSD. Donna Hunter, spokesperson for the group, said she was pleased with Sturgeon School Division’s efforts.
“I was very encouraged to hear Sturgeon School Division response; how interested they are, that they want to provide the program,” Hunter said after Wednesday night’s board meeting. “Geographically, they feel they are the best suited to provide it.”
Hunter said she is pleased Sturgeon is so willing to assist and work towards a solution. “Now we just need the actual permission and authority to get going,” she said.
The public school advocate said she was also pleased to hear Sturgeon School Division would like to see a census as opposed to the survey currently underway.
“If you want to actually find out, you have to survey the entire electorate, house by house, parent by parent,” Hunter said. “You need to do a census not a survey. I’m very excited to hear that the minister is leaning that way as well. Hopefully that can get going.”