For months now Morinville parents have been fighting for a basic right that is allowed in every other community in Alberta – to have their child attend a non-religious public school. Recently I was asked by a local resident to help bring provincial awareness to the concerns being expressed by him and others that the Provincial Government has reneged on a commitment made by them to the citizens of Morinville.
The town of Morinville has strong Catholic roots going back over a century and all residents can be proud of the history that Morinville was founded upon. In 2011, the demographics of the Morinville community continue to change and this growing diversity includes the freedom to be educated free of religion. It is the belief of many that having Catholic education as the only public option in Morinville is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In the spring of 2011, the Minister of Education asked GSACRD to survey the Morinville community to gauge support for secular school options. The results of the survey clearly showed support for a secular program. Presumably from pressure from the Minister of Education, GSACRD selected Sturgeon School Division, the neighbouring county public school board, to offer a secular program in Morinville.
I’ve been told that this new secular program would be in place for the fall of 2011. An information meeting for parents and community members was held and registrations were accepted in late spring.
Plans were made to have modular school buildings brought in as presented by Dr. Michele Dick, Sturgeon School Division Superintendent to parents in late spring. Last Monday it was reported that those plans had changed when Alberta Education rejected all of the infrastructure proposals put forward by Sturgeon School Division, including modular school buildings. Once again, a school board has been put in the position of taking the heat for a Government decision and this has to stop.
Although reports have Alberta Education and Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division in discussions on having a local option for preschool and kindergarten in September and modular in place by December, I understand from friends that live in Morinville that many families are left feeling uneasy and frustrated by the lack of a concrete plan of where their children will be attending school in September. What is most important to note is that as time races closer toward the beginning of the school year and indecision increases, the secular school option being supported by Sturgeon School Division will no doubt lose registrations as parent anxiety increases.
This latest move is part of a larger pattern of behaviour on the part of the Government. Most recently, the Government of Alberta refused to increase the funding for school boards in order to cover the contracts they had agreed upon with teachers. This forced school boards to make drastic cuts to their teaching staff.
Whether it is signing contracts with teachers and not increasing the funding to school boards, or committing to having a portable classroom solution in place for the untenable situation in Morinville, the government needs to take responsibility for the commitments it makes, instead of hiding behind school boards.