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Video: Unite the two school divisions say parents

Unified public education means cost savings for families
Parent Sherry Nagel and her Grade 11 daughter Catlin Nagel were at École secondaire Notre Dame High School on Thursday during the pre-opening school season. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Red Deer Advocate

Some Central Alberta parents favour a singular publicly-funded school system.

Red Deer parent Kim Fritz who has had children attend both public and Catholic schools said the school curriculums are not that different.

“The only thing they [Catholic education system] added in there was religion and I don’t see what the problem is, if it’s going to save some money then it’s great,” she said.

A big motivator for parents is the cost savings that will follow if a unified school system came into place in the province of Alberta. Fritz added the province needs to look at what other provinces are doing related to unified school systems.

Parent Paula Wozney said Alberta is the first province where she’s experienced the segregated school system.

Both her Grade 10 and Grade 11 children are part of Red Deer Public Schools but that wasn’t intentional.

“Religion didn’t have any part in our decision,” said Wozney. “We were in public system since my children were in elementary and continued on through.”

Parents highlighted friend-circle and proximity to school are the factors they consider when opting into a school system.

They favour a merger of Red Deer Public and Red Deer Catholic so their children will learn about all religions and faiths.

“I think they need to merge together and learn more about each others’ religions,” said parent Sherry Nagel, who is very happy with the Catholic school division and the support it provides.

Parents also said they are happy with the fact that all students who graduated would be at the same level having studied the same curriculum.

“All of the kids graduating would have the same degree and will have the same classes. The Catholics have to take an additional religious class obviously,” said parent Tracy Mattice at École secondaire Notre Dame High School.

“Maybe it can be better… having a more standardized education,” said parent Ronald Contreras, whose Grade 11 son Daniel Contreras attends École secondaire Notre Dame High School.

In May this year, Red Deer Public Schools and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools had discussions surrounding amalgamation.

Although Red Deer Public School division narrowly passed the motion 4-3, Red Deer Catholic board didn’t welcome the idea.

Back in May, Catholic school board chairman Guy Pelletier said thanks to the discussions between the two school boards, he understands students need to be served better.

“Is amalgamating the school divisions the best way to do that? I don’t think so,” he had said.

The public school board motion received a green light from Diane Macauley, Bill Stuebing, Jim Watters and Bill Christie while Bev Manning, Dick Lemke and Cathy Peacocke were not in favour.

The idea to merge public and Catholic school boards was introduced earlier this year by former Alberta education minister Dave King who served from 1979 to 1986 with biggest motivational factor being cost savings. Other provinces such as Quebec and Newfoundland embraced the idea in late ’90s.