Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 31, 2000
Sturgeon Valley sets up Catholic district
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
In an attempt to ensure their children get the full Catholic education lacking in the public school district, parents in Sturgeon Valley's Bellerose area voted in favour of setting up a separate school division.
In a 68-15 vote Jan. 18, parents rallied in favour of establishing the Bellerose School Division. The division will be amalgamated with the greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division.
The new school division could attract more Catholic Sturgeon students to St. Albert schools, which means approximately $4,000 more for St. Albert Catholic schools. That in turn means $4,000 less for Sturgeon.
At the heart of this issue is a matter of dollars.
Presently, 55 students from the area attend St. Albert Catholic schools. It is still unclear how many additional students will leave Sturgeon schools for St. Albert.
"This will draw students away from school (in Sturgeon)," said Th‚rŠse Gervais, chair of the Sturgeon School Division board of trustees.
"The money and the programs go with them. If you have 10 students leaving, that's roughly the salary of a teacher. It doesn't make a lot of difference for the bigger schools, but the schools tend to be smaller here, so the loss of one student affects us more."
Parents Belinda Morin and Marilyn Simonsmeier are members of the committee steering the initiative. They are following the lead of neighbouring community Gibault which was granted a similar request to amalgamate with St. Albert in 1997.
The Morin and Simonsmeier children were attending Sturgeon Heights School when across the street, the St. Albert school division was building its next school, J.J. Nearing.
Sturgeon has no Catholic schools, but does include religious prayers, liturgies and programs in its curriculum at the request of parents.
"I don't think a lot of people know this, but some of our classes do say the Lord's Prayer every morning," Gervais said.
Gervais argues that students in Sturgeon had access to Catholic education in their schools. But Bellerose parents said it wasn't enough.
"They did offer a religion class, but there was hardly enough time for it," Simonsmeier said. "Especially in kindergarten level, at Christmas there was nothing about the birth of Christ, no prayer before snack; at Easter, there was nothing on the true meaning of it."
Morin added, "Having that Catholic education was the most important thing for us. This is another step to ensure our kids get the Catholic education they are entitled to.
"We (parents) all wanted that Catholic education when we saw that new school being built.
"I think that as a parent I should be able to send my child to any school that I want."
Joining the St. Albert district also ensures that Sturgeon students won't be bumped in favour of local students if enrolments increase in St. Albert schools.
Gervais said the Bellerose decision is not without repercussions. She is concerned with the legal ramifications that could result from the Bellerose School Division, considered a separate school division, joining with the St. Albert school division, considered a public school district.
"There's nothing in the School Act that addresses that," Gervais said. "That's kind of an interesting matter from a legal point of view . . . there's some irony in that."
Gervais said the new school division in the community has also raised some frustration with parents throughout the rest of the valley.
"They voted on something that will effect the entire Catholic community here, but the entire community didn't get a vote on it."