Letter: Morinville parent writes to premier Redford re school issue

Premier Redford,

I was really excited to be attending a session at the legislature on Wednesday, November 30th, as I haven’t even been in the building since I was a child. I was even more excited because I, as one of the Morinville parents fighting for public education, was asked to attend and be formally introduced to the house by Education Critic Kent Hehr. Unfortunately, Minister Lukaszuk completely dodged the question from the opposition about when this issue will be solved, and when he might choose to include parents in the discussion. He spoke frequently of choice. We are not concerned with choice. We are not a special interest group. We are not seeking private, charter or alternative education. We are asking for our basic rights as Canadians to have access to a genuine public school without religious permeation in our community, with the right to vote for a genuine public board who will represent us. We are still waiting for the promised modulars to arrive, and now we may see them in January. It is getting colder outside, and without a gymnasium the students will have to spend all their school hours in their classrooms. Sturgeon School Division has shown creativity in the classroom set up in their division office conference rooms and the Roman Catholic Parish Hall, but it is a poor space for the physical activity all other Morinville students have within the four gymnasiums in our four public schools in Morinville to which my child has no access. These same classrooms now double as a library, computer lab, and art room and gymnasium.

The meeting on November 24th between Minister Lukaszuk and the three school boards was held behind closed doors, and we, as parents who made the formal appeal to the Minister of Education, were not invited. We only learned of the meeting at all through the media. I am aware that some of the parents did wait outside the meeting in the rotunda of the Legislature to try to get some answers, but received none. The “picnic” Minister Lukaszuk referenced in Question Period on November 30 was simply parents trying to keep their kids happy while waiting for the meeting to let out. The Minister joined the children and introduced himself, but by no means did he invite parents into the conversation with the school boards, or give any indication of what was discussed in the meeting.

In my opinion, the idea that three school boards can come up with a solution to a problem that rests completely on one of them is ridiculous. The only board changing the rules here is Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division, by refusing to offer true public education as is their obligation as a public school board. As long as GSACRD is the resident public school board in Morinville, making deals and negotiations with other boards is pointless, as GSACRD will always have the final say as to what happens in their jurisdiction. The current arrangement of contracting Sturgeon School Division to provide non-resident programming without infrastructure does not come close to being an acceptable solution to the issue. I implore you to justly consider the situation that our children are in because of the lack of genuine public education for all Albertans. This issue cannot and should not be solved on a local level, as Mr. Lukaszuk suggests, as our local and resident public school board seems determined to continue to violate their obligation under Alberta law. The half-truths and bits of information begrudgingly released to me by politicians and GSACRD have left me with no other conclusion.

I anxiously await your reply,

Stacey Buga

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  1. Let me start off by saying that I sympathize with those who are seeking a public education without religious permeation. It does have to be difficult to bring your child to a conference room or a hall for schooling when there are 2 perfectly good elementary school in the community.

    On the other hand, I also sympathize with GSACRD because of all their hard work, time, and effort put into making the schools as great as they are today. I know I would not want anyone to take something away from me that I spent years building and bettering.

    I know that if I wanted non-religious education for my children and had to pick between GSACRD and the current SSD schools in Morinville, I would still choose a GSACRD school. That is because it is easy enough to teach my children our family’s personal religion at home (which I do) and at the same time teach tolerance for other’s choice of religion. I would not be willing to give up the gym, music room, computer room, library, etc that my child needs to receive a full education.

    I know there is no simple solution to this problem because someone is always going to be unhappy. Maybe the Minister needs to allow SSD to have territory in Morinville also, so the parents can have their right to vote and run for trustees. And also so they can build a real school with all the amenties a school should have.

  2. While I respect your right to have your life be free of religion if you so choose I think it’s wrong for you to be able to make that choice for me or anyone else who wants that religion. Also, my eye keeps wandering over this particular part of the Alberta School Act:

    Religious and patriotic instruction
    50(1) A board may
    (a) prescribe religious instruction to be offered to its students;
    (b) prescribe religious exercises for its students;
    (c) prescribe patriotic instruction to be offered to its students;
    (d) prescribe patriotic exercises for its students;
    (e) permit persons other than teachers to provide religious
    instruction to its students.

    (2) Where a teacher or other person providing religious or patriotic
    instruction receives a written request signed by a parent of a
    student that the student be excluded from religious or patriotic
    instruction or exercises, or both, the teacher or other person shall
    permit the student
    (a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction or
    exercises are taking place for the duration of the
    instruction or exercises, or
    (b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part in
    the instruction or exercises.

    I sincerely hope a good solution is worked out to this particularly contentious issue for all involved but the solution is not to take away those schools already in place.

  3. Any solution that does not place secular education first, and religious education second is simply unacceptable. In this case, students wishing to receive religious instruction should be made to go take it in another area of the school rather than forcing the non-religious students to opt out.

    If this issue was really being addressed in any sort of serious manner, don’t you think there would be portables in place already? The only viable solution is for a catholic school to give up space until proper accommodation can be made for the secular students. Would it really be hard for those students to go have religion class in another part of the school to protect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which correct me if I’m wrong supercedes the Alberta School Act.

  4. Any solution that doesn’t adhere to what you want it to be is unacceptable and that’s that?

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