Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 16, 2002
Hinton split over plan for joint school
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Alberta may be one of Canada's richest provinces, but most of the 550 Catholic students at Gerard Redmond School here see little evidence of that.
Many are housed in portables that have no water facilities. And efforts to develop appropriate school facilities in the town have divided the community.
Currently more than 330 students and 25 teachers and support staff are housed in portables with students from Grades 9 to 12 attending classes at the town recreation centre.
Efforts to build a stand-alone Catholic junior/senior high school have been derailed by the provincial government that is only prepared to build a new school if it is attached to the 20-year-old Harry Collinge public high school. That's in spite of the fact there has long been a site in the Eaton subdivision designated for a Catholic school.
Catholic trustees from the Living Waters Catholic School Division rejected building a shared facility with the public school for years until January when they joined their public counterparts and created a Joint Facilities Committee to study the option.
In June, both boards approved in principle a recommendation to develop a facility for all secondary students in Hinton on the site of Harry Collinge School.
Under the plan, a new school will be built on the site to house up to 350 Grade 7-12 Catholic students, while up to 850 public school students will be housed in a modernized facility in the existing school. In the new joint facility space, all students would have access to Career and Technology Skills (CTS) programs.
Jane Macridis, who has two children at Gerard Redmond School, vehemently opposes the plan and is pressuring the board not to build a shared facility. She is the head of a Catholic Stakeholders Committee set up to fight any move in that direction.
The committee has made three presentations to the board since May, but according to Macridis has not received a response.
Her committee, which draws from 30 to 40 Catholic parents to its meetings, wants the board to withdraw from the Joint Facilities Committee and work towards building a new K-12 Catholic school on the Eaton site.
In June, the committee collected about 300 names on a petition in support of its demands, but Macridis said she hasn't heard back from chairman Camille Joly.
In Macridis' opinion, the current plan is nothing but a public school with a Catholic wing that will irreparably damage the integrity of Catholic education.
Joly said the multi-campus proposal is the best, if not the only, option for Hinton Catholics because the government will not fund a stand-alone Catholic school. The Catholic board has approved the Joint Facilities Committee foundation document that describes how the two boards will work together in the new multi-campus facility. But no design plans are in place.
Joly said the project complies with the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association protocol on shared facilities. The multi-campus project includes building a new Catholic school with its own entrance, library, gym and instructional space.
Living Waters superintendent Carol Lemay said Catholics will maintain their identity in the new campus because they will have their own school building. She said the concept is somewhat similar to Sylvan Lake, where Catholic and public schools share one building.
A phone survey earlier this year found 72 per cent of the 550 Hinton residents polled supported having a joint campus.
"I agree with them," Joly said from his home in Slave Lake. "We should have our own stand-alone Catholic school, but are we willing to wait 10 more years for that?"
The public board is applying for funding for a $7-million multi-campus facility, including $2 million for upgrading Harry Collinge School.
The Living Waters board will apply for funding following approval of its capital budget this month. The Catholic board will also apply to upgrade Gerard Redmond School, which may mean the removal of all, or most, of the portables.