Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 16, 2002
Alberta bishops oppose shared school buildings
Shared facilities create 'grave problems' for Catholic education
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"The sharing of facilities creates grave problems for Catholic education,"
- Alberta bishops
The bishops say the attachment of two schools with significantly different values is an "uncreative strategy" that produces "little real benefit."
"Such arrangements not only impede the ability of a Catholic school to have the distinct environment which is needed for Catholic education, but also set the stage for the future merging of the two intertwined entities, at which point Catholic education ceases," they warn. "This would be a loss to the Catholic community but also to the wider community."
The bishops describe a separate Catholic school as a "designated environment for faith formation which requires its own separate space for the sake of cohesion, unity and growth."
The shared faith life of the school permeates every part of the building and every activity that happens within and around it, they say, stressing that "anything that detracts from this permeation, such as a 'shared facility' situation, leads to the loss of something vital to Catholic education."
In their five-page document the bishops call on the Catholic community to "continue to state clearly our position that shared facilities are not acceptable to the Catholic community."
John Krol, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, welcomed the bishops' statement, saying it provides needed guidance to Catholic stakeholders across Alberta.
"It'll force boards to look very strongly at the issue," Krol said. And he said it reaffirms the position of the ACSTA, which is opposed to sharing facilities.
"We have always encouraged partnerships and working with our neighbours but at the same time we need our space and they need their space."
Like the bishops, Krol says there is little to gain from facility-sharing. "We really don't have very much evidence where it's a real cost-saving to have two facilities together."
The ACSTA president, however, doesn't believe the bishops' document will lead to dissolving partnerships that don't infringe on the integrity of Catholic education or to a complete halt on new partnerships. "There are partnerships and sharing that can happen and we have to do some of that," he said.
"We really don't have very much evidence where it's a real cost-saving to have two facilities together."
- John Krol
Macridis' sense is that the bishops released their document precisely to prevent a shared-facility agreement in Hinton. A joint-facilities committee made up of Catholic and public trustees has been working on a proposal for the past few months.
"I think that the bishops of Alberta have come to recognize how very close we have come to losing Catholic education," Macridis said.
"I see them recognizing this new direction that the Alberta government has taken (regarding shared facilities) as a direct threat to the life of Catholic education in our province. And that's what we are fighting for here."
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