News / Edmonton

Edmonton Public School Board could dip its toes into Catholic education

Proposal by Board Chair Michael Janz not sitting well with Catholic trustees.

Edmonton Public School Board Chair Michael Janz wants to add a Catholic programming option in the public school district.

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Edmonton Public School Board Chair Michael Janz wants to add a Catholic programming option in the public school district.

The Edmonton Public School Board Chair’s plan to add Catholic programming is not sitting well with the group that represents Alberta's Catholic trustees.

Public Board chair Michael Janz wrote a blog post Monday stating he is looking into adding Catholic-based faith programming, pending approval from his board and the Education Minister.

“We can save the province millions of dollars by building a public school that is an umbrella that has a variety of choices within it for families,” Janz told Metro Tuesday.

Edmonton Catholic Schools referred media requests to the Alberta Catholic Trustees Association Tuesday, which issued a statement saying Catholic courses belong in fully permeated Catholic schools.

“Alberta’s Catholic Schools have always been places where our Catholic faith plays a vital role in the learning development of our students,” the statement reads, adding its classes are “taught by faith witnesses who are more than teachers but sacraments to God’s grace.”

But Janz said he is frequently asked why Edmonton public does not have a Catholic program.

“Let’s say there was an opportunity to build a new public school that had a few classrooms set aside for Catholic education – that would alleviate the need to build additional Catholic schools. It would also alleviate the need for the province to replace every single existing public or Catholic school on a one-to-one basis,” he said.

He was told in the past that public schools are not allowed to offer Catholic programs, he said, but that the rules are murky and he hopes to get clarification from Education Minister David Eggen later this month.

Barbara Silva, a former teacher with public education advocacy group Support Our Students Alberta, said she appreciates that Janz's proposal could cut expenses and eliminate duplicate costs, but disagrees with religious segregation of any form in schools.

“We’re missing the invaluable benefit of children learning across cultures, across faiths, across ability,” Silva said.

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