Education Minister visits Morinville schools

Morinville Public Elementary School student Madison Logan adds her name to a welcome banner for Minister of Education Jeff Johnson Monday morning. Johnson and MLA Maureen Kubinec visited MPEs and Ecole Notre Dame Elementary School. – Stephen Dafoe Photos

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Education Minister Jeff Johnson toured two Morinville schools with Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Maureen Kubinec Monday morning. The two provincial politicians visited École Notre Dame Elementary School and Morinville Public Elementary School (MPES), the latter formerly École Georges P. Vanier School. Johnson and Kubinec were accompanied by the principals and their respective boards at both Morinville stops. The visits followed tours of two school facilities in Legal earlier that morning.

The purpose of the Minister’s visit was to see firsthand the work performed over the summer to facilitate the repurposing of existing infrastructure in Morinville to accommodate the needs of both the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Division and Sturgeon School Division, the latter of whom was recently given jurisdiction in the community under new legislation that formally provided a public school option with infrastructure for those wishing it.

Johnson said he was pleased with what he saw at both schools. “I’m really impressed with how much work these folks have done,” the Education Minister said. “I’m really impressed with how well the transition has gone and the effort everyone has put in. This was an emotional issue and when you think of all the little things that have to be done and all the extra work teachers have to do to prepare their classrooms. They are obviously very passionate about what they are doing and all dived in and made it work.”

Education key at both schools

The tour of Morinville Public Elementary School, Johnson’s first stop in town, included visits to several classrooms and a trip to the school’s gymnasium where the Education Minister took a little time to chat with children and bounce a ball or two.
Johnson was impressed with the surroundings. “I’m pretty happy with what’s happened here because we’re seeing the students in the classroom that seem to be doing great,” Johnson said. “They’ve got a great school around them, great teachers, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s about the students.”

The visit to Notre Dame included a tour of existing classrooms as well as the new modular units added this summer to form a new exterior wing to the school. “The [new] modulars are fantastic and I think all the little wrinkles are being ironed out: the parking lot and the traffic flow,” said Minister Johnson. “They are going to come together, but it’s going to be all about the kids. From what I’ve seen, the learning experience for the kids is excellent.”

Board and School Council pleased

For Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools Board Chair Rosaleen McEvoy, education will continue to be the focus it always has been; however, she is pleased the province came through on their commitment to ensuring the school infrastructure would be ready. “The Minister, in June when I last spoke with him, promised the modulars would be up and running and functioning,” she said. “Really, at this point, we are really thankful that he carried through on his promise. He delivered.”

McEvoy said response from parents, students and staff has been positive, something she is pleased with as she is with this year’s enrolment numbers. “We’re pleased with the fact so many students have decided to stay with us,” she said. “From our perspective, it’s students first all the time. From the education perspective, nothing will change. We still have the same great education program here that we’ve always had.”

Morinville Public Elementary School Council Chair Gillian Percy also accompanied the Minister on the tour of her school Monday.
“I’m thoroughly excited that an Education Minister has finally come to us and not the other way around,” she said of Johnson’s visit. “I am very thankful to Minister Johnson for taking the time to tour our school, and to actually see the great things Sturgeon School Division and Morinville have accomplished.”

Percy said she was pleased but not surprised with MPES’ enrolment numbers this year. “We knew that the interest in a genuinely public school in Morinville would be high, and we were concerned with the way our numbers were being minimized at every single opportunity. Unfortunately, there was nothing for us to quantify what we had. Having a school structure and the ability to provide public education to whomever we wanted has finally been materialized.”

MLA happy with local efforts

For MLA Maureen Kubinec there was excitement in seeing the two school systems engaged in educating the community’s children. She was pleased with the two division’s ability to get right into the work at hand. “I think we’ve seen two groups adapt to their situation really well,” she said. “People are excited. The Morinville Public Elementary School are pleased to have their facility and then when we get here [Notre Dame], kids are excited and happy. It appears the staff have transitioned remarkably well and made the best of what could have been a really difficult situation. They’ve done extremely well.”

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