Faith In Our Future - SACHS and ESSMY Consultation Session Update

January 15, 2020 Update

The first consultation to review the potential transfer of high school French Immersion programming from École Secondaire Ste. Marguerite d’Youville (ESSMY) to St. Albert Catholic High School (SACHS) took place at SACHS on January 15, 2020. Thank you to those who participated at this consultation for your thoughtful participation.

The following presentation was shared at this consultation and  can be viewed here. You are welcome to provide feedback based on that presentation at this survey. (survey closes January 16 at midnight)

Thank you to the French Immersion parents and grade 9 English parents who are interested in taking part in the second face-to-face consultation opportunity on January 22, 2020 (7:00 pm) at ESSMY to hear a thematic summary of comments from the January 15 meeting and the feedback collected digitally from January 15 - 16 (midnight). To participate in this next session and provide further feedback (paper or digitally), please register by January 20, 2020.

Should you have any difficulty registering, please contact Pat Gerhardt at

Thank you and God bless,

Joe Becigneul, Board Chair
Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools


December 19, 2019 Update

On December 2, 2019, the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board of Trustees received the results of the Faith In Our Future Phase One Consultation. This consultation was a multi-layered public engagement process including Thoughtexchange, Open House, Online and face-to-face surveys as well as public questions and presentations at Board meetings. At the meeting, I shared what the Board heard and the results were emailed to all families and made available on our Division website on December 3, 2019. The results that pertain specifically to you in the Faith In Our Future: Phase One Report to the Community are:

There is support and understanding about the need to move duplicate programming at ESSMY for grades 10 – 12 students to SACHS. That said, the stakeholders most impacted by this change want input into how the transition would be completed.

Based on this support of the public for this aspect of the Faith In Our Future proposal, the Board made the following resolutions at the regular Board meeting on December 2, 2019:

THAT the Board of Trustees consider the transfer of French Immersion grades 10 - 12 High School programming from ESSMY to SACHS to commence for the 2020 – 2021 School Year and direct the Superintendent to engage in a consultation process further to items 4 – 5 of Policy 15 with expected conclusion of the feedback from this process to be presented to the Board for its February 2020 Regular Meeting.

THAT further to Board Policy 15, the Board will vote upon a resolution to transfer the French Immersion grades 10 - 12 High School program from ESSMY to SACHS to commence for the 2020 – 2021 School Year at the February 2020 Regular Meeting.

In keeping with these resolutions and Section 4 of Board Policy 15, School Closure/Transfer of Students, the Board is required to engage impacted communities in further consultation:

Should the Board wish to proceed with a consideration of closure or the transfer of students from one school building to another school building, temporarily or permanently, a letter will be sent to the parents of every child in the school(s) affected, notifying them of the Board’s decision and relevant implications.

To ensure that you have the opportunity to participate in the consultation process of the proposed transfer of grades 10, 11, and 12 students from ESSMY to SACHS in the 2020-2021 school year, we have organized two meetings for parents and students of ESSMY and SACHS to attend:

Meeting One                                                                                      Meeting Two

Location: SACHS                                                                              Location: ESSMY             

Date: January 15, 2020                                                                     Date: January 22, 2020

Time: 7:00-8:30 pm                                                                           Time: 7:00-8:30 pm


Every family of grades 10, 11, and 12 students at SACHS and grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 students at ESSMY will receive a letter (mailed) and email message to invite them to these two meetings. The two meetings are important because they each build on the other. In other words, in the first meeting, students and parents will learn about programming available at both SACHS (if ESSMY high school students transfer to SACHS) and ESSMY (if ESSMY high school students do not transfer) for September 2020. Feedback will be collected at meeting one and then a refinement of such programming will be presented at meeting two based on salient themes in feedback from meeting one. Letters were sent both by email and mailed on December 19, 2019. 

Results of the consultation with ESSMY and SACHS parents will be reported as Board resolutions at the regular board meeting on January 27, 2020.

I wish to emphasize at this time that other aspects of the original Faith In our Future proposal are very important. A revised version of this proposal will be developed that incorporates the consideration of multiple models for increasing Division utilization so that a newly constructed École Father Jan and space for regular programming expansion may take place in the future.

As explained in the previous Division website message about Faith In our Future, based on the What We Heard Report for Phase One, the Board will investigate multiple solutions that have now been illuminated through the consultation process and the extent to which all alternatives will address (or not) the drivers of the Faith in Our Future proposal

For practical purposes, other than the ESSMY-SACHS meetings, previously scheduled open houses for January and February will be cancelled.  We will, therefore, undertake an engagement process that extends from Spring 2020 through to the early stages of the 2021 – 2022 school year so that by the 2022 – 2023 School Year, meaningful solutions that more fully solicit community feedback can be in place for that school year.

While slowing down is necessary at this time, we want to emphasize that we do have time constraints related to pressing drivers, namely growth and health and safety as they apply to the replacement of École Father Jan. This school has a limited lifespan and, therefore, in very real terms, the need for current and future families to have a place to relocate to in the future is significant. As well, in the future, the ongoing growth of our division depends on utilizing our space in schools in fiscally responsible ways and ensuring that when Riverside grows into a community of 13,000, that we are well-positioned to serve our Catholic families in a new school site. If no further effort takes place to increase the utilization of our St. Albert Schools, we could not anticipate to obtain a new school for EFJ regardless of the state of that school’s building envelope. As long as utilization within our St. Albert Schools is not addressed, the government will expect that the school joins its population with existing school space in any of our schools.

The second reason for not slowing down our consultation process beyond what has been stated earlier is that the division, with a current in-year decline in funding being 3.7 million dollars, will already be making significant cuts that are purposefully designed to limit impact on the classroom. As such, the existing drivers behind the first proposal presented to the community will be expanded by one more variable. This is the ongoing budget shortfalls that we and all other divisions will be facing for at least the next four years due to a new provincial budget strategy. Of course, we are committed to be able to address these through our vision and realization of excellence in our schools.  We have in the past and will continue to be determined to overcome change due to funding and legislative changes in remarkable ways. But our path forward in doing so will need to be one of “thinking differently” about how we provide service and the efficiency of providing these services according to demands and needs for programming. Therefore, relevant to our initial proposal, and responding to this approach in practical terms, the Board will delay for this and the next school year its plans for seeking a new Division Office and Outreach space. Having said this, we will remain interested in pursuing the possibility of including solutions for these sites within any proposal adopted in the future.

At this time, the Board wishes to stress the importance of public participation with respect to the organization of learning in the Division, the evolution of programming needs, and the location of new schools in the future. Further to its policies, the Board greatly values the role of public participation in its decisions while recognizing that in the end, it is legislatively entrusted to make relevant planning decisions and assure the future viability of Catholic education on behalf of all students and their families currently enrolled within, and those yet to be part of our excellent school system. Our Division could not have evolved and thrived over 155 years if “faith in our future” was not part of the governance mindset.

View the full Faith in Our Future Phase One consultation report. 

For additional updates on the Faith in Our Future consultation process, please check our website.

Thank you for your thoughtful participation in the Phase One Consultation, and we look forward to continuing to work with our school communities to further illuminate the best path forward in Faith In Our Future.

Thank you and God bless,

Joe Becigneul, Board Chair
Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools

Posted: January 15, 2020