MCHS gets packed house to hear education minister speak on Morinville issue

Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk speaks to media after Thursday night's meeting with GSACRD parents and students. - Stephen Dafoe Photos

Student-made banners hang from the balcony at MCHS Thursday. A large turnout of students came to the meeting to hear and to speak. - Submitted Photo
By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Roughly 800 parents, students and members of the community filled the Morinville Community High School gymnasium Thursday night to hear Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk speak on the Morinville school issue and to give him their thoughts on the same.

Lukaszuk said he expects to make a decision on just where Morinville’s secular students will attend school this fall within a matter of days. “I don’t like to sit on decisions,” Lukaszuk said. “I find that if I wait longer I don’t wind up making decisions that are any better. I just wind up frustrating Albertans. I like to make quick decisions but well thought out based on fact.” Lukaszuk said he believed he now had all the facts he needed after Thursday night’s meeting with those who will be most impacted by the decision, and that he’d asked to meet with the school boards to discuss things further Thursday night.

In his comments at the beginning of the three-hour meeting, Lukaszuk said he had not yet made a decision on infrastructure for Morinville secular students, a position he was challenged on by several speakers during the question period portion of the evening. Applause from the audience seemed to indicate many in attendance were in agreement a decision had been made. The education minister said whatever the infrastructure choice was it must meet several criteria: it had to be available for September 2012; it must have facilities for a library and gymnasium; it must be able to accommodate at least kindergarten to Grade 6; it must have capacity for growth, and it must minimize the disruption to the student population of Morinville.

Lukaszuk said five options were before them for the secular public school -one of Morinville’s four existing schools or the Sturgeon School Division offices in Morinville, the latter of which got a large round of applause from the majority of attendees. The minister went on to say it was determined the most likely candidates were Notre Dame, G. P. Vanier or the division office. The two existing elementary schools met four of the criteria but would cause student disruption. The minister explained the division office would not be convertible by the fall, would not accommodate kindergarten to Grade 6, does not allow for growth, but did present limited disruption to student population.

Variety of thoughts

The predominantly pro-Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division school supporters expressed a variety of concerns with the proposed Bill 4, a piece of legislature now given second reading and which seeks to switch GSACRD’s designation from public to separate. The majority of the evening was given over to questions and comments from parents, students and others on the matter. Many MCHS students spoke of their support for their school and concerns about changes to the system.

Michael Cust
Although the issue of faith based vs. non-faith-based schooling dominated the questions and comments, parental and stakeholder concerns ranged from the disruption and availability of schooling for special needs children, the availability of French Immersion programing, the ramifications of Bill 4 decisions in Legal, and even calls for the minister to reconsider Bill 4 and keep GSACRD the public school board. The latter suggestion, put forward by Morinville resident Michael Cust, received applause from a large majority of the audience, particularly after Cust compared a small group of people moving to Morinville and seeking secular education with people moving to Quebec and then complaining everything was written in French.

Although questions and comments varied, many parents expressed their concerns about the potential loss of an existing and familiar school and the potential loss of teacher’s jobs. A few parents expressed the opinion the secular students should be bussed outside the community, at least until a school could be built in Morinville to house them.

Alanna Dalton speaks to minister
One parent, Alanna Dalton, was particularly passionate in her questions and comments. Dalton said most parents were fine with the fact there would be a Catholic system and a public system, but drew the line at giving up a school. “We’re fine with that, but what we’re not fine with is our kids being booted out for a select few,” Dalton said, adding her concerns of a connection between non-faith-based education and atheism. “Atheism is a recognized religion in Canada. How are you going to guarantee to me that if my children go in a separate system that’s not going to be pressed upon them? “ Dalton called for the attendees to signify if they agreed with what she was saying, and a large percentage of the audience showed their support. Dalton went on to say she was not Catholic but felt parents who choose to send their children to a Catholic school post Bill 4 flip would lose their voting rights. “You’re taking away our voice, and you’re claiming you are doing it for human rights. Really all you are doing is changing who you are discriminating against,” Dalton said.

Gillian Schaefer Percy, one of the original parents who fought for a public education in Morinville, took issue with the connecting of secular education and atheism. “I’d like to make some clarification on what secular education is because it seems to have become synonymous with atheism in this town,” she said. “Our school is not comprised of 100 per cent atheists. They’re comprised of 100 per cent of people who recognize that they want their children taught without one religious focus.” Percy went on to say Morinville Public Elementary School is comprised of Christians, including Protestants and Catholics, many of whom have simply taken the stance they prefer to teach their faith at home or in their respective churches.

Pastor Greg Fraser calls for peace among all sides.
One man very familiar with church is Morinville Christian Fellowship Pastor Greg Fraser who spoke as a parent to the high quality of education GSACRD schools offered his daughter. Pastor Fraser also spoke to the greater need for the community to come together on the issue. “As the pastor of a church of about 300 people in this community, I’m very concerned that we’re losing sight of the bigger picture,” he said. “And the bigger picture is what makes this an incredible community. The bigger picture is tolerance. The bigger picture is love. The bigger picture is kindness. I’m concerned as a pastor, and I have been praying for this event because I’m seeing a polarization happening in our community that greatly concerns me. My prayer for all of us is whether you are Catholic, whether you are Protestant or whether you hold to no faith-based values whatsoever, surely we can agree on love. We can agree on tolerance. We can agree on kindness.”

Difficult decision

Pastor Fraser’s comments, which received considerable applause from all corners of the room, were a uniting voice of reason in an evening that although never overtly disrespectful was nonetheless emotionally charged.

Lukaszuk said he had a difficult decision to make, one he doesn’t have to make. “I can let it slide,” he said. “Courts will make that decision for you. So we have an opportunity right now in this community. We have an opportunity right now as a community to make a decision for ourselves that will impact us least. We can make that decision where we can accommodate our neighbours. Those are not those people; those are your neighbours. Those are people whose kids are playing together on the same baseball [team]. ”

Although many comments were made to the minister Thursday night about what should be done, one from a Sturgeon County resident with children at Vanier particularly struck the minister as worthy of consideration. Under the suggestion, secular students would be bussed to Sturgeon School Division (SSD) schools outside Morinville, but SSD would be the resident division for those families, allowing Morinville secular parents to vote for SSD trustees. While the minister said it was worth looking at, he reiterated throughout the evening no decision had yet been made.

Lukaszuk said he wanted to hear from Catholic school parents before making that final decision because they were the most affected in the matter. He reiterated his belief that a local solution was the best solution and said he wanted to make that decision with the community; otherwise the decision would be made for the community without having input into the outcome. “This matter will be decided in the courts and you won’t have a judge coming before you in a town hall meeting like this,” Lukaszuk said, noting it could take up to three years to plan and build a new school. “In the meantime that decision will be made for us, and I don’t want that to happen to you.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

comments

25 Comments

  1. Pastor Fraser’s comments were indeed the highlight of the evening for me.

    However “Bus ‘Them’ out of town”, a town of 8000, which would have if I understand the invited attendees desires, 4 separate catholic schools and no public schools however, I absolutely do not support. In a town of 8000 NO child, mine, yours, Catholic, Fellowship, Red, or Green should be required to leave the community for a basic education. Many folks have offered me a bus over the last two years for my children, some have suggested “we” get on that bus and just keep going.

    “We don’t want our children uprooted”; My children moved through three facilities this year.

    “What about those with special needs in our school it’s particularly hard on them”; guess what. MPES has children with those requirements too, they also moved 3 times this year.

    I am incredibly cognizant of those concerns. In fact, I and others have lived those concerns all year. Those concerns, those fears, my reality.

    I talked to the Minister in his press scrum after the meeting. I had two points, speaking only for myself.

    1) If the Minister wanted to build an entire school out of modulars before September that met the requirements he listed of facilities and growth and that would save “your” second elementary until brick and mortar are ready I would certainly support and advocate that option. He asked if “I” was willing to forgo a gym and library, “I” said a gym and library are part of a school, but modular technology can provide for both. Work camps are modular and often have both.

    2) If infrastructure needs required the transfer of a school to SSD, then those affected would most certainly have both my understanding, and indeed, my sympathy, however as stated above there is a reason “I” understand and sympathize. Empathy is easy to come-by by someone who is currently in that situation.

    Finally, all those quotes for them, us, me, I, you; As I was leaving a pleasant lady raised a concern about “Us and Them” mentality and how it impacts her children and their education, and over the course of our trying to explain our viewpoints to each other unsuccessfully I came to a bit of a quandary. I’m still expected to get on a bus (but it’s only three years or so).

    If “We” need to defeat “Us” and “Them”; then “We” need a common starting point.

    My half of “We” would like to suggest we start with “None of OUR young children are leaving OUR town for a basic education”

    We is not my 4 year old on a highway in a bus for you. We is not your child losing a faith based education for me. We is all of us figuring out how to use what we have and what the Minister makes available to see OUR children’s needs are met.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  2. Wait a tic here.

    It seems that Ms. Dalton is saying that she is concerned that ‘the religion of atheism’ will be forced upon students in a secular school, even though the entire point of a secular school is to not show preference towards ANY religion.

    However, students going to GSACRD school are mandatorily indoctrinated in catholic education, the fact of which there is no question and it is even written in the curriculum.

    There were actually people clapping when this point was made???

    Am I missing something here, or was everyone in the room completely immune to the mind-bending hypocrisy?

  3. I’m so heartbroken at how divided Morinville has become with all of the school controversy! I sat in at the Minister of Education meeting at MCHS last night and while many valid concerns were brought up regarding voting for trustees, special needs, and school overcrowding, etc, my heart simply aches at the anger and animosity that was so apparent in the gym yesterday. I am saddened that sides have been taken and that so much of the discussion has become religion-based and “us vs them”. Our town is fracturing and dividing over this and it’s truly agonizing to see this happening. I am hopeful in the resolution of this stirring debate and anxious to see what the resulting changes are going to be. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of all this is simply that the citizens of our little growing town are being given choice, and what could be better than being able to make a choice (especially when so much of the world outside our borders is not given this luxury). Change is difficult but embracing it can only prove to strengthen and solidify a community which in turn will benefit and empower all of us, nurturing our children in the best possible environment of cooperation, kindness, and generosity.

  4. Despite what many theists contend, including one quoted in this article, atheism is not a religion.

  5. Why doesn’t anyone think of the children? What is less disruptive for them? Leave them in their schools! It just doesn’t make sense to uproots hundreds of students so 40-50 kids can move in. Morinville needs a new school anyway. There are only so many portable to attach and I think we’ve about reached our max. Give SSD jurisdicition as Public Board in Morinville and those wanting that school system can have their voting rights. We’ll build a new school and in a few years, they can move in. IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENSE to do it any other way.

    And by the way, I took a bus to school when I was 4 years old, Thomas K. It was a hour’s drive. I survived.

    • Melissa, not taking away or commenting on your viewpoint, but as indicated in our Oct. 12, 2011 article the 40-50 numbers so frequently quoted is wrong.

      http://morinvillenews.com/2011/10/12/larger-than-anticipated-numbers-prompt-public-school-move-superintendent-says/

      “The superintendent said there are currently 26 students attending Morinville Public School for Grades 1 to 4. Another 57 students are enrolled in the early childhood education program at the Parish Hall. Beyond the grades currently being taught in Morinville, Dick said another 74 Morinville residents are enrolled in Sturgeon School Division schools outside Morinville – 32 at Sturgeon Composite High School and 42 at Namao, Sturgeon Heights, Camilla and Guthrie schools. The total number of Morinville students enrolled in SSD schools is 157 students, a number slightly higher than the minimum number of 106 students estimated in a Pivotal Research survey initiated by the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division last June to assess the interest in secular education in Morinville.”

      Add to this Superintendent Keohane’s comment last night that GSACRD schools started the school year with 46 more students than they did the year before.

      I have been told, but have not confirmed, there are 200 already registered for 2012 in the public school system. Now that is reasonably close to the 300 in one of the schools. THAT is NOT to say one of the schools should be given. That decision must be between the Ministry of Education and families; however, if all schools are full, a 26 per cent influx of population we have seen and the real numbers shown above would indicate an additional school is likely needed in our community. What flavour that school takes is up to enrollment and parental decisions.

  6. My question is what about the Quality of education that the children are receiving. After reviewing the facts sheets the minister had posted last night at the meeting it appears that the quality of education is lower in the Sturgeon School Division and that GSACRD is quite a bit higher. Is that ok for the MPES??? Religion aside, is Bill 4 really helping our children’s education?

  7. From the article:
    “…Cust compared a small group of people moving to Morinville and seeking secular education with people moving to Quebec and then complaining everything was written in French.”

    Cust is right – the history is important. Let me see if I have it right:

    Before people of European descent arrived, the land near Edmonton was inhabited by the Cree people, with their own language, culture and religion.

    The Catholic, Anglican and United churches, in collaboration with the Canadian government, kidnapped the native children at gunpoint and forced them into residential schools where they were forbidden to practice their own religion or speak their own language. Oh, and they were raped, beaten and tortured. The goal was to “kill the Indian in the child” and turn them into Christians. But in too many cases the result was “kill the child”. Many died of their injuries from the beatings, or of disease from the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, or from suicide. The Catholic Church became the dominant religion of the area with control of the school system.

    Fast forward to 2012. The population is more diverse. New people, who are not Catholic, are moving into the area, establishing businesses and contributing to the community in many ways. Understandably, they want their children attending schools that respect secular values.

    Now some of the Catholics are fighting back, claiming that this is historically a “Catholic community” and if the new arrivals don’t accept that, they should just move somewhere else.

    Maybe a bit of irony here?

    • @Scott – As many who attended last night’s meeting will recall, many of the parents who spoke in favour of the status quo clearly identified themselves as NOT being Catholic. Support for and against change comes in a variety of faiths, including lack of faith. I really do not think the present opposition to change expressed last night is as much about religion or faith-based education as it is about geography and proximity, fear of loss of teacher’s jobs, and fear of enjoyed and appreciated educational standards being jeopardized. That is not to say those concerns are either justified or unjustified because only those with those concerns can access the value of them. It is to say there is far more to this issue than Catholicism vs. other than Catholicism.

  8. EDITOR’S NOTE – WEEKEND’S HERE

    The weekend is here and while comments may be plentiful, we will not be reviewing and approving comments until we resume the work week Sunday afternoon. PLEASE BE PATIENT – You are not being censored.

  9. Melissa,

    It doesn’t make any sense to you to do it any other way, others may and in my case do have differing opinions.

    GSACRDs Superintendant, Mr. Keohane spent time at the beginning of the meeting specifically stating that if required it could indeed be done, I felt he was sincere in his commitment and his passion. Did you miss his presentation?

    And while we are at it “Think about the children… Put those ones over there on the bus” is disingenuous and hypocritical in its structure. I was very clear when I said I don’t want Any Children riding out of town. That means ALL the children.

    I take it then that my half of “we” is still on a bus.

    Us and them does not lead to good things, the minister said four times he is seeking to avoid a court judgement approach to this issue, and he has good reason to. The last time he said it he ended with (paraphrase) ” the majority of the people in this room would not like the result”.

    Madam, people there in support of public education (my side if you will) numbered under 30 by my count.

    I am most sincere when I advise you to consider that, for your benefit.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  10. Maybe public schools and catholic schools should both merge. Give students the option by teaching religion on global scale instead of imposing and indoctrinating them into one. Religion should always be researched by the individual. If every school divided their semister up into the three monathesitic religions, Juadism, Christianity, and Islam, at least the student will be exposed to something that the masses believe in. All three of these great religions have the exact same fundamentals without an iota of difference. One God, One Message. Just because a parent is Catholic, doesn’t mean their child will believe in the same thing. Each student in a catholic school chooses his major, why can’t he choose his religion? Just because Dad was a doctor, doesn’t mean son/daughter are going to be doctors too. Yes, I am pro-public education, doesn’t mean I believe that religions shouldn’t be taught to the students. Have a compulsory course and call it WORLD RELIGION, end of story.
    Also

    For all the pro-catholic school parents out there. Don’t forget about the other important issue here. You will prevent economic growth by secularizing the town of Morinville. The majority of the population is divided and nobody will want to move to Morinville with this public/catholic chaos we have before us. Developers will stop developing and businesses will move elsewhere. BIG PICTURE people.

  11. There’s a public school in Namao..Why can’t the kids go there until they can build a permanent school? Or what if Legal schoool closes, why cant they go there?
    I don’t understand how people think these things happen over night. I want a public school and I want it NOW. If the kids have to be bussed for 3 years- so what. That’s the price you have to pay for impatience.

  12. Scott,

    I support respecting treaty rights and reparations for residential school victims. My contention that the wider Alberta majority is moving in to uproot the local Morinville minority does not seriously undermine that belief.

    Alberta was not taken coercively from the natives. Learning from the violent American example and the earlier violence in our own Maritimes, the federal government settled the non-BC West by negotiating treaties with the natives, treaties that we still recognise today in exchange for use of the land.

    Residential schools were a later occurrence and they were an injustice, one for which I support reparations. That said, they don’t stand as a justification for replacing the local Catholic schools with secular ones. The Catholic Church is culpable in the residential schools question, but so are is the government that would run the secular schools that you propose as an alternative. In short, those injustices don’t favour one side or the other. If you want to suggest the Alexander band run the schools in keeping with Cree traditions, that’s a separate argument.

    I want to clarify my own position here. I’m not pro-Catholic or anti-atheist. I’m pro-sectarian and anti-secular. The reason is that secularism is painted as neutral when it’s not. Secularism was brought forward by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia after the American Revolution because he didn’t want the government beholden to one religion as the British government was to the Anglican Church. At the time, his solution was neutral because all colonists were all theists of one sort or another. Even diests, who were the precursors to atheists, and of which Jefferson was one, believed in a creator, they just thought he couldn’t intervene in the living world. So at the time, separation all religion from the state was neutral.

    In our current context, however, secularism is no longer neutral because it favours atheists, humanists, agnostics, and other non-religious peoples. The reason it does so is that if non-religious persons wished to establish an ideal school system, it would be indistinguishable from a secular school. There would mention of, or symbols of, religion anywhere. The mistaken contemporary thought that secularism is neutral allows non-religious people to mask intolerance of religion as neutrality.

    GIven that secularism isn’t neutral, the question is, how can we be neutral? I don’t think any solution is perfect, but I do think that one solution is to allow the majority of local taxpayers to choose education that approximates their beliefs and accommodate others who don’t share those beliefs. This is essentially what Morinville does. The local Catholic/Christian majority has a school system that reflects their views and they allow those who think otherwise to opt out of all religious content. In fact, they’re so accommodating, they even let them run for school board and vote in school board elections.

    I’m not a religious person, but what I see going on is people who think like me being intolerant of local religious minority, wanting to rid schools of anything they don’t believe in even though no one’s oppressed them.

  13. I will clarify my comment. Will there be 350 students that are currently enrolled in GSACRD moving to the new public school? If so, fine, have one of GSACRD schools. If only 40-50 students currently enrolled in GSACRD schools will be switching, then no, don’t take the school. By my math (which I learned at Vanier many years ago), that would force 300 more students into the already over populated Notre Dame school. That is what I am saying doesn’t make sense.

    I still don’t understand what is wrong with bussing. I would bus my children to the outlying SSD schools if their curriculum was top rated and they were Catholic. I guess I’m saying if they were GSACRD schools.

    • Melissa: I encourage you to read the numbers in the article I cited in this thread earlier.

      From that article once again…

      “The superintendent said there are currently 26 students attending Morinville Public School for Grades 1 to 4. Another 57 students are enrolled in the early childhood education program at the Parish Hall. Beyond the grades currently being taught in Morinville, Dick said another 74 Morinville residents are enrolled in Sturgeon School Division schools outside Morinville – 32 at Sturgeon Composite High School and 42 at Namao, Sturgeon Heights, Camilla and Guthrie schools. The total number of Morinville students enrolled in SSD schools is 157 students…”

      We are told, and I will confirm this week, that 200 students are already preregistered for fall 2012.

      What to do about those and all students is between the parents of those students, the province and the school boards.

  14. I also encourage you to re read my last comment. I said CURRENTLY enrolled in GSACRD. I am not taking about the students currently enrolled in SSD schools. So what I am asking is, on top of the 157 students already in SSD, are an additional 350 GSACRD students going to switch to SSD?

    • I’m not here to debate, Melissa.

      I’m here to present FACT. I’ll do it when misinformation is presented about GSACRD and I’ll do it when misinformation is presented about SSD.

      If people want to rip ass over parking at the CCC, how much tax money is being wasted on town hall renos or whether or not photo radar is a cash cow, have at it.

      But this issue is tearing Morinville apart and misinformation plays a role in that. your comment of 40-50 is misinformation. Unintended, clearly, but misinformation nonetheless.

      The FACT is there are currently 26 students in grade 1-4 and 57 in ECE. That is 83 in Morinville presently TODAY. That is not 40-50 nor has it ever been 40-50 since the school year started.

      It is also certainly not 350 0r 300 or even the 200 allegedly registered with MPES for September 2012 when accommodations are alleged to be decided and ready.

      I think the others in SSD schools outside Morinville are partially relevant figures because the current public school offerings stops at Grade 4. At the very least the Grades 5 and 6 numbers need be factored as the proposed accommodations are said to be K-6.

      The bigger FACT is if you can take 157 Morinville kids out of GSACRD schools and that system is still ahead by 46 students at the start of the 2011 school year, what does that say to our growth in student population and parental confidence in both systems.

      Seems to me 26 per cent more population would mean 26 per cent more schools needed. When you already have four, that kind of growth would of necessity lead to five schools, particularly given Morinville’s median age and positive residential growth.

      Whether that new school should be built for public students or GSACRD students is up to the community and the ministry. But maybe we need to rally together a bit once the dust settles and the tempers calm and lobby for more infrastructure for all our community’s kids.

      None of us know for certain what Lukaszuk is going to say or decide this week, but us debating the issue here does not put the info where it needs to be.

      Parents need to let the minister know their thoughts. There are lots of contact points at http://lukaszuk.mypcmla.ca/.

      I’ve heard rumours folks have until Monday to do so.

  15. I find it interesting that my minor concern that secular schools are not as free from religion as everyone thinks was the comment quoted in the article. I have friends who are athiests, agnostics, and of many other religions. Through personal experiences and those shared by some of my friends over the years I have become concerned that the secular/athiest line has been crossed in public education; but because it is harder to identify it goes unnoticed. As for my asking for hands of those that agreed with me, it was; if parents were concerned with loosing their right to vote for trustees because of their religion.

    My biggest concern is that; throughout this whole issue it has been expressed to us over and over again that it is about “choice and voice”. Therefore my concern rises out of the fact that if bill 4 goes through the way it is written, along with bill 2 (the new education act) that parents who are not catholic will loose their voice in reguards to their children’s education, if they remain in the catholic system. I am greatly concerned that many parents were unaware of this. I know that eventually the secular system may become the more desired system here in Morinville. I can only think of an imperfect analogy to express how I feel.

    Let’s say that a person has a broken arm. That would be our current system in Morinville. While it is still there and somewhat useable it hurts to move it and you can’t do everything you want with it. One doctor says let’s chop it off, it is of no use. To me that is like the government with their idea that to fix “the arm” they must completely do away with our current system. Everything gets changed all at once and the pain takes a long time to fad and in some cases never does. Another doctor comes in and says here if we put a cast on it and give it time to heal you will be able to use it again, although it might never be exactly the same. That to me is like a couple of the other options that were placed before the government at the meeting on Thursday. I am not sure if they had even thought of those options. I am not sure if they were, or are willing to consider them.

    I liked the one that the minister half suggested. That perhaps we need a new school board formed. One that could be for Morinville and not borrowed from another area. To start it could be a secular/seperate system that would allow all parents the ability to vote for and run for the trustees of our chosen schools. It would be a board where the trustees could be intimately involved in our community. That they can learn and grow with us to understand our desires and needs and be able to meet them. When the time comes that the majority of parents desire the secular system of education the change over from the current catholic/public system to the new secular/public system would be more smoothe. When that change happens the majority of parents will probably have their children already enrolled in the secular system so there would seem to be less change. I do know and understand that even then there would be some bumps along the way. I just don’t think they will be the sink holes we are currently faced with. The cast is removed the arm has changed but it works as it should.

    I just hope that these options are looked into and considered. They offer an oppertunity to protect everyone now and prepare for and grow in the future. I don’t think anyone out there wants one person to loose or miss out on what should be there for them. The right of “choice and voice”.

  16. First of all I find the MCHS student banners shown above to be incredibly offensive. I’d like to hear the staff at MCHS explain how the above banners tie back in to the Districts Mission statement:

    “Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools is a welcoming learning community that awakens the hearts and minds of students while educating and nurturing each to learn, live fully and serve others.”

    I also believe the person best qualified to lead us through this transition in to a public school in Morinville is in fact the Superintendent of GSACRD, Mr. David Keohane. For some reason mention of Mr. Keohane’s past experience in this type of situation has not been brought up a whole lot during this process.

    While doing an internet search tonight I came across the following story from back in 2003:

    “Stettler wins Catholic schooling Parents lobby for faith-based school” (http://wcr.ab.ca/old-site/news/2003/0407/stettler040703.shtml).

    What I found most interesting were the quotes from Mr.David Keohane, Superintendent of Wainwright-based East Central Catholic School Division

    “Whenever you start a new Catholic school in the community, you get some people feeling that you are dividing the educational community by establishing two school (systems) and splitting up resources,” said Keohane.

    “We believe that by exercising our right to a Catholic education we are providing choice and choice is a good thing.”

    Keohane also believes the project is actually an economic opportunity for Stettler in that “we will encourage more parents to relocate (to Stettler) because they know there is a Catholic school there.”

    Luckily for Stettler they had a spare facility and the situation did not deteriorate in to anything near the situation Morinville is now in.

    Perhaps the district should also look back at their decision to deny the parents group a “fully secular, non-faith based education for the children…” (http://morinvillenews.com/2011/01/18/secular-option-not-among-board-offerings/). The district put themselves in this position by denying what is clearly a fundamental right everywhere else in Canada but here. By not recognizing this was coming GSACRD has put themselves and all Morinville families in a situation that has torn this community apart simply because they refused to knowledge a legitimate request for additional education services to be provided.

    GSACRD had their shot to make this right and they didn’t.The consequences coming are the result of poor decisions of the board not a small (but rapidly expanding) group of Morinville parents.

    Jeff

  17. “Beyond the grades currently being taught in Morinville, Dick said another 74 Morinville residents are enrolled in Sturgeon School Division schools outside Morinville – 32 at Sturgeon Composite High School and 42 at Namao, Sturgeon Heights, Camilla and Guthrie schools. The total number of Morinville students enrolled in SSD schools is 157 students…”

    Let us not assume that all students enrolled in SSD schools would switch to attend a secular/public school if/when it becomes available. Some may but others have chosen the SSD schools based on programming and are not likely to change.

    • That is correct. Some current SSD programming may or may not be available in whatever infrastructure is available or made available here.

      The key numbers are the ones that are or will be enrolled in Morinville this fall. IF that number is in fact 200, then we have an infrastructure problem in Morinville apart from the present issue of who gets what school. When we consider Keohane said his Morinville schools had a 46 student increase over 2010; when we consider current demographics and population growth, have we looked at the longer picture in Morinville.

  18. Omar – I love your idea. This is a perfect example of providing a secular education while staying neutral. You will likely have to add a few more major religions to the list such as Sikh, Hindi and Buddhism.

    There are to many religions in Alberta now to keep a sectarian school system. Omar’s idea should be rolled out province wide, and save the Government a pile of money on management of multiple types of school systems.

    The argument over a sectarian school system only seems to remind people of our differences instead of embracing our similarities, which is what is happening in Morinville right now. It hasn’t done any good anywhere else in the world (ie. Middle East), and it won’t result in any good here.

  19. This is an emotional topic, so there’s no surprise that there is a “polarization” taking shape in Morinville. Good. I’m glad. People are being defensive about this topic because it’s worth defending. It is fact that the majority of people are thrilled about the education offered in GSACRD because of the quality of education the kids receive in this town(second to none in this division). That’s worth defending.
    There is no doubt that there should be a secular school in Morinville, but taking one of the schools that we have now is not the answer. There is NO reason to displace 350 kids for 100. No reason. The answer is to build another school, and that should have started a long time ago.
    How did Notre Dame get to over 100% capacity and Vanier get to 90% when they were supposed to advocate for more infrastructure at 80%? So our two elementary schools are overfilled and there is consideration to vacate one to 25%?????? Really. What they should have done was build a secular school 5 years ago and avoided this mess altogether. Leave it to our government to be retroactive than proactive. If there’s anyone to blame for all of this, it’s them.

Leave a Reply