by Colin Smith
The results of a recent value-scoping exercise on public school needs in Morinville will be considered seriously by the Alberta government, according to Minister of Education Gordon Dirks.
Dirks was speaking in the Legislature November 20 in response to questions from Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr. “Recently, government organized a value-scoping exercise along with officials from the Sturgeon School Division, the parents, and community members to explore public school options for Morinville,” he said.
“Community members participated in preparing options. Those will go to the school board, and the board will then submit its proposal to the government. Sturgeon School Division’s requirements, once they’re confirmed by the board, will be considered seriously as we move forward investing in school infrastructure for the future.”
Hehr had questioned the minister about the government not meeting its constitutional obligation under the Alberta Act of 1905 to provide all communities with a public school. “Morinville, a community of 10,000 people, a vast majority of whom are non-Catholic, has no access to a public option past grade 7,” he said. “Why isn’t the Premier fulfilling this government’s obligation to provide a public school for these parents and kids?”
Hehr earlier introduced Sarah Hall, chair of the Morinville Public School Council, along with Stacey Buga and Leah Elzinga of the Morinville school parent delegation, who were seated in the Legislature’s public gallery. “They’re here today because there is currently no public junior or senior high school in the town of Morinville, and these ambitious ladies are fighting to have one there,” he said.
The three parents were among those who launched a petition in support of public education in October. The move came after the Oct. 8 Alberta government announcement that a new Catholic K-6 school would be built in Morinville, but no public school. The new Catholic elementary school is part of the 55 new schools and 20 modernization projects announced for 2014-15 by Premier Jim Prentice.
Morinville Public School, opened two years ago, has been taking in Grade 7 students, but beyond that students have to attend Catholic schools or be bussed out of town.
A release put out by public school supporters at that time 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 school is also said to be 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 states. “In a community of nearly 10,000 people, this is unacceptable.”