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Trustees choose dual name for new Hart high school

The new secondary school in the Hart will be named Shas Ti Secondary and Kelly Road Secondary School. On Tuesday, the School District 57 board of trustees voted four to three in favour of giving two names to the $44.
Kelly Road debate WEB
This screenshot shows the School District 57 board of trustees debating the name a new secondary school in the Hart on Tuesday night.

The new secondary school in the Hart will be named Shas Ti Secondary and Kelly Road Secondary School.

On Tuesday, the School District 57 board of trustees voted four to three in favour of giving two names to the $44.3 million school expected to open this fall. The 900-student school will replace the original Kelly Road Secondary School built in the early 1960s.

"Is it perfect? No. But I believe it recognizes and acknowledges both histories," trustee Ron Polillo said.

The decision to give the school two names was an amended version of a motion put forward by Polillo, which called for the school to be named Kelly Road Shas Ti Secondary.

The controversial decision was prompted after Lheidli T'enneh elders Kenora Stewart and Clifford Quaw, along with Chief Clay Pountney, made a request to the board on Feb. 25 to name the new school Shas Ti Secondary School. The name means "grizzly path” and would reflect the area’s past as a grizzly bear habitat, they said. The proposed name change prompted protests and a petition by people demanding the school keep the Kelly Road name.

"I will support this motion because it provides for the greatest number of people in our constituency," trustee Bob Thompson said. "I worry about the confrontation getting out of hand if one side wins and one side loses."

Trustees debated four options, which included the dual name, keeping the name Kelly Road but incorporating Lheidli T'enneh culture and history into other parts of the school, naming the school Shas Ti but naming the school gymnasium after Kelly Road.

The debate lasted more than two hours, with Polillo, Thompson, chairperson Tim Bennett and trustee Sharel Warrington voting in favour, while trustees Trent Derrick, Betty Bekkering and Shuirose Valimohamed voted against it.

"While I 100 per cent believe that Shas Ti needs to be on the building, I worry that this decision... puts a dark cloud over the opening of this new building," Bennett said. "It's going to be an opportunity for incredible, 21st-century learning to happen in that building."

Both Derrick and Bekkering put forward motions which would have named the school exclusively Shas Ti Secondary.

"There is a lot of talk about compromise. Why is it always the First Nations who have to compromise? They've been compromising for 150 years," Derrick said. "This is not a big ask. We have 42 schools in our district, it's not too big to have one (with a Lheidli T'enneh name)."

At the beginning of the board meeting, which was conducted via videoconferencing software and live-streamed online, school district staff read several of the 88 emails submitted by members of the public about the issue.

A total of 57 individuals wrote emails in favour of keeping the Kelly Road name, with some submitting multiple emails on the subject, School District 57 secretary-treasurer Darleen Patterson said. Eleven people wrote emails in favour of the name Shas Ti Secondary School.

"Changing the name is a form of appeasement. The entire process is creating a rift in our community," an email submitted by 13 people said. "We know Kelly Road has a history and a legacy in the district."

The email said changing the name won't do anything meaningful to achieve reconciliation.

"I'm writing to you to beg you, don't change the name Kelly Road. Kelly Road is a special school and the name has meaning to us," Kelly Road alumni Teresa Jordan wrote. "Changing the name feels like you are erasing our memories."

Jordan urged the board to listen to the voices of the students attending the school, above the other feedback the board has received.

Not all Kelly Road alumni opposed the change, however. Laura Parent, who graduated in 2017, said she "whole-heartedly supports" the change to Shas Ti Secondary School.

"I was born and raised in the Hart and attended KRSS for five years. Changing the name of the school does not and will not take away any of my Roadrunner identity from me," Parent wrote. "I am proud to be a graduate of KRSS, but I would be much more proud to be from an inclusive community. This issue, at its core, is about race."

Those opposed to the name change should think about why they are so uncomfortable with a Lheidli T'enneh name, she wrote.

An email from Chief Pountney asked the board to follow through on the commitment on Feb. 25 to name the school Shas Ti, and reminded the board that the school sits on Lheidli T'enneh traditional territory.

"We respectfully ask you do the right thing and uphold the unanimous vote on Feb. 25 to name the school Shas Ti," Pountney wrote. "We feel strongly that some of the (public) feedback is racist. The name Shas Ti would demonstrate School District 57's dedication to truth and reconciliation."

Earlier this month, the board of trustees was presented the results of a four-week public questionnaire on the naming issue.

Of 2,707 people who responded, 68 per cent said the new school should keep the Kelly Road name, while 13 per cent supported naming the school Shas Ti Secondary School.

However, 30 per cent of survey respondents supported including Shas Ti in some way.

Students aged 13 to 17 were only five per cent of the questionnaire respondents, while 48 per cent were between the ages of 35 and 54 years old.

The majority of respondents – 82 per cent – identified themselves as having a direct link to the school.

More than 400 people watched the live-streamed debate on YouTube.