Editorial: Survey results first step in community moving forward

Strutting across the stage like a chicken on ecstasy, Mick Jagger once sang about how we are not always able to get what we want, but how if we tried hard and persevered, we might get what we needed. Of course the preceding is nowhere close to actual song lyrics, but it does keep us from a run in with copyright folks.

Thursday night, Morinville parents seeking an education free of Catholic trimmings did not get what they wanted – the keys to one of Morinville’s four schools handed over to them. But they did get what they needed, a non-faith-based educational option in Morinville, delivered by a willing and competent school division, and one that will be delivered this fall.

Just what the program will look like remains to be seen. Despite the $30,000 spent on a survey to gauge the interest in secular education in Morinville, the resulting estimate of 272 students who would be game for an education that is free of religion – academic discussion notwithstanding – is just that, an estimate. The number that truly counts is the number of parents who will enrol their children in the program Sturgeon School Division will offer.

But just how many parents will do that is as uncertain as the details on what non-faith-based students will return to this fall. We know it will be in Morinville, at least for lower grades. But will it be a collection of portables stitched together like an oil patch work camp or something more substantial? Who will the teachers be? Where will it be and will it be easier for parents to take the path of least resistance and just send their children to their current Catholic public schools, schools that are closer, more familiar and require no further thought?

Surveys are great for a quick show of hands or figurative head count, but the only head count that really counts is the one education dollars follow. For without those dollars, no teachers, no programs and no brick and mortar schools are possible.
When Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division stands to lose somewhere between 6.2 and 15.9 per cent of its current student population to Sturgeon School Division, the journey could become less about the minds, hearts and souls of students and more about hanging on to or gaining funding dollars, particularly in a time when budgets have received corporal punishment from the province.

It is our hope that the positive collaboration between the two divisions remains just that and the children of this community do not become batted around between two divorced parents who put on smiles for the kids’ sake but who secretly plot to undermine each other at every turn.

Whatever the true enrolment numbers will be, the survey has shown interest in a non-faith-based education is significantly larger than a man with a sandwich board and a couple of 10-year resident newcomers making waves.
Support for Morinville’s Catholic schools is still strong, but there is clearly a demand for something different. Morinville is changing as it has for the past 100 years, and with that change comes the opportunity for cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of the community and the community’s children.

It is time to put the sectarian and philosophical bickering aside and move forward into our second century.

– SD

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