Nicole Buchanan, chair of the Red Deer Public School Board. (Photo contributed.)

Support for retaining ‘public’ in Alberta school titles could snowball, says local trustee

Even districts that never had the word in their titles are now discussing adding it

Striking the word “public” from the official titles of Alberta school boards could cause unintended repercussions for the provincial government.

The Public School Boards Association of Alberta is sending a letter out this week seeking input from its members on the government’s decision to remove the word “public” from the official titles of all public school boards in the province.

Only eight school districts, including Red Deer Public Schools, used the word in their legal names.

But now other public school boards that never had the word in their titles are talking about the importance of adding “public,” said Nicole Buchanan, chair of the Red Deer Public School Board.

She believes support for reinstating the word will snowball, since the government’s actions have sparked a provincewide discussions about identity.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer North, said the word was dropped to achieve standardization, as only some public school divisions had the word in their titles.

But some Alberta public school trustees question why the same effort for consistency wasn’t made with Alberta’s Catholic school boards.

While all Catholic school divisions are now required to add “separate” to their titles, they maintain the right to use “Catholic,” or even “Roman Catholic” in their legal names, said Buchanan, who was told there’s a distinction between the two.

She maintains that retaining “public” is just as important to her school district, which accepts all students, as using “Catholic” is to separate boards.

Like many trustees, she’s concerned the government’s decision was made without consultation.

Once input is gathered from various school boards, the Public School Boards Association of Alberta intends to discuss the matter further with the provincial government.

Buchanan believes there will be strong support for retaining “public” in the official names.

“I would hope that, with enough support throughout the province, the education minister would do the right thing,” she said.

The Red Deer school division will still be branded as Red Deer Public Schools.

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