We look forward to a day 30 years down the road when The Morinville Catholic High School Rams are taking on the rival Morinville High School Raiders on the football field. Morinville has a population of 25,000 residents, a new recreation complex with a swimming pool, and next to no memory of the harsh words exchanged between the parents who fought for public education and those who fought to preserve things the way they were. Those folks, by 2042, have also forgotten all the strife they caused themselves and each other and are more concerned with whether or not the feds are going to extend senior pension eligibility to 75 now that they are approaching the age their parents could have retired back in 2012 when the school issue so divided a community.
It’s a nearly utopian concept; this idea of two school systems peacefully coexisting in the same community, their only battles being on the football field, basketball court or in arguing about which school’s theatrical production drew the biggest crowd. But we hope for it nonetheless because it is a potential reality in keeping with all the lip service being paid to diversity and inclusion in schools of all stripes today.
Last Wednesday’s introduction of Bill 4 – The St. Albert and Sturgeon Valley School Districts establishments act was the result of a lot of hard work and probably harder decisions and compromises between the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division, St. Albert Protestant Separate Division and Sturgeon School Division. One school division will cease to exist and two others will gain additional territory and strength.
As a public board in Morinville and Legal, Sturgeon School Division will now be able to offer a full public education option (as it exists throughout the rest of Canada) for those who wish it for their children. The new Greater St. Albert Roman Catholic Separate School District will be able to provide a full Catholic education experience for those who desire it, just as thousands of students enjoy throughout the country. Parents will have choice. Parents will have a voice in the electoral process regardless of the system their children attend. And students will have space as the community continues to grow and as the respective educational options continue to grow along with the community.
But as news, rumour and myth about the proposed bill spread over the coming days and weeks, fear and loathing could grow in Morinville as it has from time to time throughout the past 16 months since a public education free or religion was first requested for Morinville.
That would be unfortunate.
We have an opportunity in this community to move past the prejudices of religion or lack thereof. We have the opportunity to move past the fear of the 26.5 per cent increase in new residents Morinville has gained over the past five years, people who may not share the cultural heritage and traditions of Morinville’s founders but who thought enough of what Morinville had to offer to call the town home. And we have the opportunity to move past the notion that there should only be one type of educational system for Morinville as it has been since time immemorial.
Change is afoot and whenever there is change, there is blame. So who do we blame? Do we blame a small group of parents who wanted what the rest of the country had? Do we blame the real estate agents who sold all the new homes built in the community over the past five years, an act of capitalism that allowed people with different notions of education to move in? Do we blame the developers who sought to profit from land they bought on the open market? Do we blame the farmers for selling the land the developers built house on for real estate agents to sell to outsiders who have different ideas about the type of education they want for their children?
Or do we simply blame no one and accept that change is a part of life, even life in Morinville.
With increased choice comes increased competition. It is our belief that competition will make both the proposed public and Catholic school systems strive to make their schools in Morinville the best they can be. And that search for academic excellence will pay dividends for the students fortunate enough to attend school in this community over the coming years, just as it does now. Just as we hope it shall always be.