On March 6, 2011 I wrote about the situation in my hometown of Morinville, where due to local history and a weird quirk in Alberta’s Schools Act, the only “public schools” in the community are Catholic schools administrated by the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District.
Parents in the Town of Morinville wanting a non-religious education option for their children put public pressure on Education Minister Dave Hancock and local MLA Ken Kowalski to what seemed to be little avail. Councillor Lisa Holmes brought the issue to the Town Council, which voted 4-3 against taking a position on the issue. Even as Catholic School District officials admitted that only 30% of Morinville students identified themselves as Catholic, the elected trustees would not waver from their mandate to offer religious-based education.
Until last week, it appeared as though advocates for secular public education in Morinville had been stonewalled in their drive to bring a non-religious education option to their community of 7,900 residents.
The neighbouring school district, Sturgeon School Division, has agreed to offer secular education options in Morinville starting this September. Classes will be temporarily housed in portable classrooms until a permanent location can be found. A survey released by the Catholic School District showed that as at least 270 students in the town of 7,900 residents would enrol in the secular K-12 education program and that 37% of parents and residents in the town supported secular educational choice.
The question now is whether residents of Morinville residents who enrol their children in the new secular education option will be able to cast their vote for Trustee on the Sturgeon School Board Elections in October 2013. At the moment, Morinville residents are only able to vote for Trustees on the Greater St. Albert Catholic School District, which also collects taxes from Morinville residents whether they are Catholic or not.
The extension of the Sturgeon School Division into Morinville will certainly create some waves in the community, but in the long-run I believe embracing a diversity in education options will be a healthy move for the town I grew up in.