Dan Knott School, Oliver School to get new names, public trustees decide in unanimous vote

Dan Knott School in southeast Edmonton and Oliver School west of downtown will be given new names after community members are given a chance to suggest new options.

'This is being driven by community,' says board chair Trisha Estabrooks

Edmonton Public Schools board of trustees voted Tuesday to start the process of changing two school names. (Codie McLachlan)

Edmonton Public School Board trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to start the process of renaming two schools.

Dan Knott School in southeast Edmonton and Oliver School just west of downtown will be given new names after community members are given a chance to suggest new options.

Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said trustees made a "significant decision" on Tuesday.

"This is being driven by community and the community needs to be part of the next steps so the board of trustees will work with administration to come up with a plan," Estabrooks said after the board meeting.

The board of trustees will have the final decisions on the new names.

It's still too early to know when the schools will be renamed, but the consultation process will be similar to when the board names new schools, Estabrooks said. 

The decision comes after student Aimee Dorsey petitioned to rename Dan Knott School because Knott, a former Edmonton mayor, supported the Ku Klux Klan. Dorsey's petition has gathered more than 7,800 signatures.

While he was mayor, Knott approved requests for cross burnings at the former Exhibition Grounds.

"We need to teach students, and even adults, about our dark history after all these years of it being suppressed," Dorsey wrote on the online petition. 

The petition was noticed by trustee Michael Janz, who brought forward the motion to rename the schools.

"Both Dan Knott and Frank Oliver, I do not believe, are worthy of our highest honour, which is a namesake of a school," Janz said Tuesday.

Oliver, a provincial and federal politician in the early 1900s, formed policies that pushed Indigenous people off their traditional land.

In Edmonton, his policies triggered the surrender of the Papaschase reserve near Edmonton.

The Oliver community league is working with the city to rename the neighbourhood after launching the #UncoverOliver campaign.

As part of the campaign, the league officially opposed the neighbourhood's name "because its namesake, Frank Oliver, spearheaded many harmful policies that directly targeted Indigenous communities, people of colour, newcomers and people with disabilities," according to a statement on social media.

Robyn Paches, president of the Oliver community league, applauded the school board's decision and hopes the board can be part of the process of renaming the neighbourhood.

"We especially like the process-driven lens they're taking instead of a unilateral change to the name," Paches said. 

The community league has met with Mayor Don Iveson and city officials to figure out the best way to go about public consultation on a new community name.