Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 5, 2005
Lacombe parents rally to get Catholic school
Dozens knocked on doors to drum up interest
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Kevin Prediger credits the work of a dedicated central Alberta community for letting him relax a little easier these days. Dozens of people in Lacombe spent many cool evenings last fall knocking on doors to determine what interest there was in getting a Catholic school for the town.
"Not many administrators get an opportunity to start a school from scratch," said Prediger, principal of Father Lacombe Catholic School.
"What an opportunity to grow as a Catholic school educator. It was exciting to build the bonds required for a Catholic school. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride and it still will be."
Archbishop Thomas Collins opened and blessed Father Lacombe in Lacombe Aug. 29. The large red-brick building was formerly Nelson School in the Wolf Creek public division.
More than 80 Catholic students, from kindergarten to Grade 5, made their way into five of the buildings' 14 classrooms the opening day of classes, many wearing sharp white and navy blue uniforms. The school is considering having a dress code.
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Schools has a temporary agreement this year with Wolf Creek to accommodate some specialized education classes for public students.
"We don't need the extra space right now," Prediger said. "We all get along fine."
To create the school, St. Thomas Aquinas utilized the old 4X4 system, which allows Catholic electors to set up a Catholic district if they prove they are a religious minority within a territory four miles long by four miles wide.
A meeting was held last November which a minimum of 220 people - 25 per cent - of Catholic ratepayers had to attend. They had to vote at least 51 per cent in favour of forming the district. Alberta Education officials were there to ensure proper protocol was followed.
"We had 230 come and about 99 per cent voted for the school," St. Thomas Aquinas chair Fred Calkins said. "We got going soon after the vote came in. The minister of education declared the new district had been formed. We named Kevin as the principal, but we still had to find a building."
Along with her husband, Heather Elander went door-to-door canvassing.
"It has all happened so quickly. We had to make some big decisions this summer."
Elander is an RCIA instructor at St. Stephen Church in Lacombe. She has one child in Grade 5.
"The support came in, big time," Elander said. "I think it will be a nice community spirit where everyone can feel they belong."
Jamie McNamara, recently appointed superintendent of St. Thomas Aquinas, said Catholic education in the area is destined to grow.
"We are obviously very excited. I think there was a hunger in Lacombe for Christ-centred Catholic education," he said. "There is a real sense of accomplishment by the parents, the board and the staff that this idea became a reality. There were 86 students for opening day and I think they thought that if 50 came, they would be successful."
More than 30 students were enrolled by the end of May without a building in sight. Only 90 days remained to create and staff the school.
"We have definitely been guided by the Holy Spirit through the whole process because so much has fallen into place," Prediger said. "The staff we have are incredible. It is as if they were sent."
Every classroom has a prayer centre. A general assembly will be celebrated each morning in the gym to emphasize the aspect of community. A choir is being formed. Children's liturgies will be taught at St. Stephen Church.
The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Women's League will visit the school and pray the rosary.
"The community was committed because parents were contacting us saying 'We want our children to go to your school, even though we don't know where it's going to be," Prediger said.
There are plans to expand Father Lacombe in the next few years, up to Grade 9. Prediger is confident the demand will be there.
"The archbishop has been talking about stewardship and I think this is big to have the school system support the Church. It is so important to raise our children as part of the home-school-parish triad," Prediger said.
Shawna Glasman moved to Lacombe a month ago with her husband. Their three sons are enrolled in the school.
"We just moved from a small community (Russell) in Manitoba. It's very exciting for us to experience a Catholic school because we didn't have an opportunity before. The boys are excited."
The school has chosen Knowing; Loving; Serving as its motto because it portrays God in the hearts of the staff and students.
Prediger said he has had moments when he sits in his chair and thinks he is not worthy of all this. "I want to do my best every day with the gifts God has given me," he said.
"There was a lot of hard work to get this done in time, but I was never concerned. This school is all about people and it is the people who built it."