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Students, parents, ponder new name for Vital Grandin Catholic

Five monikers put to a vote; trustees will select one by Sept. 30.
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NAME TBD — Principal Helen Jackson (left) and school council chair Donna Hansen check out the space where the words "Vital Grandin Catholic School" used to be on the school's front lawn sign. Vital Grandin staff and students helped pick a new name for the school on Sept. 7, 2021. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Vital Grandin parents, staff, and students headed to the polls this week to help pick a new name for their school. 

Vital Grandin Catholic School students got to vote for one of five possible replacement names for their school Sept. 7.  

The school, which opened in 1959, was named after Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin — a prominent figure in St. Albert history and, notoriously, a champion of Canada’s residential-school system.  

The discovery of hundreds of children buried in unmarked graves at residential schools earlier this year sparked renewed calls for the names of residential-school supporters such as Grandin to be stripped from public landmarks.  

Last June, Greater St. Albert Catholic trustees voted to create a committee to rename Vital Grandin Catholic and directed that the school’s exterior signs be removed immediately. The school’s name was removed from its front sign and wall soon after, but was still visible inside the school and on its website as of early September. 

The 10-member renaming committee met for the first time Aug. 31 and included parents, Vital Grandin administrators, St. Albert ward trustees, superintendent Clint Moroziuk, a priest from Holy Family Catholic Parish, and Indigenous representation, said committee member and Vital Grandin principal Helen Jackson. 

School council chair and committee member Donna Hansen said she was not previously aware of the controversy around the school’s name but understands it now. 

“I think it’s exciting to be part of a new name,” she said, noting that it could be the school’s name for decades to come. 

GSACRD’s naming policy says schools shall be named or renamed in honour of the Divinity (e.g. “Good Shepard”), a Catholic tradition, a beatified or canonized person or group (typically a saint), or an outstanding Catholic figure.  

Jackson said the committee held a spirited discussion and came up with five candidates, all of which ended with “Catholic School” — Christ the King, Holy Family, Holy Redeemer, Jesus the Teacher, and Our Lady of Reconciliation.  

Jackson said students voted for their preferred name Sept. 7. The committee combined these votes with feedback from parents, staff, and members of the Indigenous community (who got a survey on the names earlier this month) to identify the three most popular names to present to the board of trustees.

Trustees are set to pick the school’s new name from these candidates by Sept. 30. 

Jackson said teachers will use the school’s renaming this fall to teach students more about Canada’s Indigenous peoples.  

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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