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Kelly Road Secondary name change survey gets over 2,700 responses

Nearly 70 per cent of respondents want the name to stay Kelly Road

Over 2,700 people responded to the public engagement survey to gain feedback on the possible renaming of Kelly Road Secondary School (KRSS).

School District No. 57 (SD57) has now released the executive summary of that survey, which was launched on March 20 and closed on Friday (April 17) and gathered responses through online, phone and mail-in submissions.

“We are very committed to making sure the 2,700 individuals who completed the questionnaire has their voice heard,” said Board Chair Tim Bennett, following tonight’s (April 22) online public forum, which ran into some technical difficulties that made it hard for the public to live-stream.

The results from the public engagement, now available online, will inform the Board of Education’s decision regarding the naming of the new Kelly Road building at its board meeting this Tuesday (April 28).

“We did have some technical difficulties this evening and not everyone was able to participate fully and staff have been working very hard to ensure that there is a better solution for Tuesday night because we know there is going to be a high interest in the decision.”

The question about what to name the newly constructed school first arose on Feb. 25, when Board of Education Trustee Trent Derrick put forward a motion at the regular public board meeting, to “engage in the process to rename the newly constructed KRSS to Shas ti, which is Dakelh for 'grizzly bear trail,' reflecting the history of the area.

It was moved and carried unanimously by Board Trustees, however, the report acknowledges motion was met with public surprise, confusion, frustration, protest and support, both within Prince George and elsewhere.

The survey was meant to ensure that public concerns were understood and considered, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the in-person public engagement sessions planned throughout March being cancelled.

It was designed to hear feedback on suggested names, preserving both the past and current history of the area, and how the school could honour the tenants of reconciliation.

Bennett says data in the survey aligns with what the board has been hearing from the community through dialogue, conversations and emails around the possible renaming.

Respondents to the survey were also asked to watch a presentation which included the oral history retelling of Shas ti, and recorded history of Kelly Road school and John Kelly’s connection to the area and community, before responding – which 88 per cent did.

A video was also included to explain very briefly the importance of reconciliation, which 73 per cent of respondents watched.

The data shows that 55 per cent of respondents felt very connected to the legacy of Kelly Road, and when asked to suggest a school name, 68 per cent of the respondents answered the name should stay as Kelly Road Secondary School.

While 30 per cent of respondents to this question answered the name should include Shas ti in some way either by itself or combined with Kelly Road.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of respondents 85.5 per cent answered that both histories/stories of Kelly Road Secondary School and Shas Ti can, and should both be acknowledged together in the spirit of reconciliation.

The suggestions included keeping both in the school name, through room or space naming, through curriculum expansion, though continued education about both histories, and through various kinds of art and displays.

“It was 85.5 per cent respondents that felt there was room to encourage both Shas ti and Kelly Road in the building. Saying that, 68 per cent felt we should leave the name Kelly road as Kelly Road,” said Bennett.

“I think now Trustees will take that data, read through the responses and will bring recommendations forward to the meeting on Tuesday.”

Of the 2,707 respondents, the largest number of respondents, 60 per cent, identified as being from the Hart community of Prince George.

The survey also reached people from throughout the city, province, and as far as Alberta, Ontario, and Missouri, U.S.A.

Bennett says the board has a lot of data to consider and review before next week when the decision will be made.

The verbatim data, which is also available online, is over 800 pages. 

“The purpose of tonight was for the board to see the data publicly – the board now will be spending the next few days diving deep into everything they’ve read and heard in order to make the best decision they can Tuesday night when recommendations are tabled.”