Nicole Buchanan, chair of the Red Deer School Division, board of trustees. (Photo contributed)

Red Deer’s public school division wants to officially keep the ‘public’ in its title

Trustee says it’s important to its identity

Red Deer’s public school district objects to having the word “public” removed from its legal name, saying it’s losing an important piece of its identity.

“‘Public’ is just as important to us as ‘Catholic’ is for the Red Deer Catholic Separate School Division,” said Nicole Buchanan, chair of what’s now officially known as the Red Deer School Division Board.

And yet Alberta’s Catholic school districts get to keep “Catholic,” while having to include “separate” in their titles, while eight of 41 public school divisions across the province had the government officially strike the word “public” from their titles.

Buchanan believes “public” is integral to describing the inclusiveness of her school district, which accepts everyone, regardless of ability, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

“It includes each and every student.”

Like many other trustees across the province, Buchanan is struggling to understand why Alberta’s United Conservative government is doing this.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, who is also MLA for Red Deer North, has stated the word was removed for standardization reasons.

Many Alberta public school districts, including those in Edmonton and Calgary, never had the word “public” in their legal titles in the first place.

LaGrange said in a released statement that too much is being made of the change, considering school boards are still free to brand themselves by whatever name they wish on pamphlets, letterheads and advertising.

For instance, “Red Deer Public Schools” is how the local school district is known to many — even though its legal name was Red Deer Public School District No. 104 — and it can still continue to use that brand.

LaGrange blamed the NDP and special interest groups for fear-mongering.

But Buchanan said the concern does not stem with the NDP, but from trustees in the affected school boards “who are wondering what this will mean for the future of public education.”

These same school trustees are also wondering why no consultations were held with them to get input on the proposed change.

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