Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2000
CWL opposes shared school facilities
By GORDON LEGGE
Special to the WCR
Catholic women from across Alberta are protesting the government's shared schools policy, saying it will spell the end of Catholic education in the province.
About 165 members of the Catholic Women's League unanimously passed a motion at their provincial convention June 3 urging its 10,000 members to voice their concerns.
"The purpose of this resolution is to alert all those who strongly believe in Catholic education to the great danger presented by the provincial school building board's policy to strongly encourage public and Catholic schools to share space in one school facility," said Gloria Lundberg, a member of Calgary's St. Patrick's Parish.
But a provincial government spokesperson said it has no intention of undermining Catholic education. The concerns are unfounded, says Chery Mackenzie, assistant director of communications for Alberta Infrastructure.
Last year, the Alberta government through the School Buildings Board began asking Catholic boards to accept shared space in public schools on an interim basis as a solution to crowded schools until enrolment growth warrants new construction.
Unfortunately, some Catholic boards have already been confronted with this dilemma and had to make a decision, Lundberg told the annual meeting of the CWL's Alberta-Mackenzie council.
"This resolution is not to react nor condemn past school board's decisions but to be pro-active against any future situations," said Lundberg, president of her diocesan council.
"We strongly believe that all Alberta CWL councils must unite and shout a resounding 'no' to all future suggestions of shared space between Catholic and public schools, whatever the financial incentives."
Lundberg urged CWL members to contact the premier, the learning minister, and their MLAs. "Our views need to be heard," she said.
"Dear sisters, Jesus is ever-present in our Alberta Catholic schools. We cannot eliminate him from 20 per cent of the floor space and from 20 per cent of the school day of the students and staff."
In her school district of Christ the Redeemer, three schools - two in Brooks and one in Okotoks - have recently refused to accept shared space, said Lundberg, a High River resident who works for the school district in Okotoks.
The Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association and many of its member boards are also opposed to shared schools.
"I'm sorry they're feeling that way," said Mackenzie, a spokesperson for the Alberta infrastructure department.
The province is simply trying to make the best use of the money available, given that there are 50,000 new students enrolling annually across Alberta.
"What we're trying to do is find innovative ways of using the space. There's no intention to threaten Catholic education," she said.
However, several Catholic school boards have accepted shared facilities.
For example, a new multi-facility campus under construction in Sylvan Lake will have a shared gym, library and labs with separate buildings for the Catholic and public school students. Both school systems have agreed to share the facility.