by Colin Smith
A petition urging construction of a public junior high and/or high school in Morinville had received more than 350 signatures less than a week after it was launched, according to the organizers.
The Supporters of Public Education in Morinville group began circulating the petition on Friday, Oct, 10. They also set up an online petition at Change.org.
On Thursday, Oct. 16 the group issued a release stating the petition had gathered 359 signatures, 130 notes of support had been received and dozens of letters had been sent to Premier Jim Prentice and cabinet ministers as part of a letter writing campaign.
The group launched the petition after ii became known that a Catholic K-6 school in Morinville was among the 55 new schools and 20 modernization projects announced for 2014-15 by Premier Jim Prentice on Oct. 8.
The petition stresses the need for public education for all grades, K-12 inclusive in a community the size of Morinville, with a population of more 9,400.
Spokesperson Sarah Hall said the provincial government promised a K-12 inclusive public school four years ago, and the group had been working with former Education Jeff Johnson to make that happen.
“It was very disheartening to see the public school not in the plans at all,” she said. “It was just so shocking.”
Morinville Public Elementary School opened two years ago and has been taking in Grade 7 students, but beyond that students have to move over to Primeau Middle School or be bussed out of town.
The group created the petition the day after the school projects announcement.
“The petition is about bringing the issue to the attention of the government,” said Hall. “We are hoping to raise awareness that we are still here and still waiting for a school. The petition will continue until we have some answers.”
There is one thing Hall wanted to make quite clear.
“Lot’s of people want to make this a Catholic versus Public issue. It’s not about Catholic versus Public. I hope the Catholic system gets their school.”
However, she added, “They say their school is overcrowded. We don’t even have a school to go to.”
The Supporters of Public Education release states that the student population of Morinville Public School has grown by 352 per cent since it opened as a K-4. The school is expected to accommodate another 120 students in 2015, resulting in the loss of its computer lab.
The group points out that the school is unsuitable for use as a junior high or high school because it lacks dedicated art or drama space, science labs, computer and technology studies labs or equipment, a cafeteria, and food studies room.
“Without access to these basic services, parents have just two options: enroll their children in the separate school system, which might not be able to accept them, or bus them to the far end of the county,” the release declares. “In a community of nearly 10,000 people, this is unacceptable.”