Morinville, Alta. to offer secular education

For the first time ever, children in Morinville, Alberta will have access to secular education starting this fall.
Victorious Morinville parent Donna Hunter speaks with media after hearing plan to offer secular education in the town north of Edmonton. (CBC)

For the first time ever, children in Morinville, Alta. will have access to secular education starting this fall.

The Catholic school board reached a deal with a neighbouring school division to offer non-religious classes in the town in September.

Until now, parents had no choice but send their children to one of four Catholic schools.

 "I'm so relieved to hear the decision has finally been made officially that someone will provide a secular education option," said parent Donna Hunter who led the fight for secular education.

"And that parents now actually have someone to call and say, 'I want to register for this program,' and they can actually register."

Sturgeon School Division will provide the secular education using portable classrooms at a Morinville school, though which school has not been decided.

David Keohane, superintendent of the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division [GSACRD], called it a reasonable compromise.

"We honour educational choice," he said. "GSACRD is not mandated historically or currently to provide secular education, but we realize as part of our faith dimension, that our faith education should be freely chosen."

The deal was reached after a survey revealed as many as 270 students would enrol in a secular K-12 program.

The survey found 37% of parents in the bedroom community supported secular educational choice in Morinville.

However, Morinville parents who end up sending their children to the secular program will have no political voice in the school system for now.

That prompted Hunter to call the deal only a partial victory.

"How is that acceptable that for you to receive a public secular education in 2011 as a resident of Canada, you don't get electoral rights to your child's education?" she asked. "We can't run for trustees, we can't vote for trustees."

A public meeting will be held in two weeks for parents to learn more details.