School board questions religious studies

Under the direction of the Wolf Creek Public School (WCPS) board of trustees, Superintendent Larry Jacobs is looking into the validity

Under the direction of the Wolf Creek Public School (WCPS) board of trustees, Superintendent Larry Jacobs is looking into the validity and popularity of the division’s religious education program.

Eight out of the 26 schools in the division continue to run the program, geared toward grades 5 and 8, including Ponoka Elementary School, Crestomere and Mecca Glen.

Trustee Pam Hansen wants WCPS to contact the administration of the eight schools to find out if the program is still a worthwhile contribution.

“To me, I see lots of value, but at what cost?” trustee Bob Huff asked the board.

Trustee Lorrie Jess feels schools are being pigeonholed as a “be all” for students and she wants to know when the responsibility of the parent comes in.

While she doesn’t disagree with the importance of religious education for families seeking it she feels parents need to put their children in church groups or specialized classes rather than expecting the education to come from the school.

“Religious education is very important and that’s why is can’t be done half-heartedly,” agreed trustee Barb Walker, who also feels a child’s religious education needs to be spearheaded by the parents.

“I’m very uncomfortable with having religious education of any sort taught in public schools,” said Walker.

WCPS trustees agree changes need to be made if the program is continued. “We need to revamp this program if we’re going to continue it,” said trustee Donna Peterson.

“If it’s a good program, fine. If not, we, as trustees, need to look at it . . . Does it deserve the resources it’s receiving?” said Huff.

If continued, Walker wants parents of the students enrolled in the program to be more involved, as well as more transparency regarding the curriculum and what faith leader will be teaching the program.

The program is taught by a member of a church, with a teacher in the classroom at all times.

In the past students have had to opt out of the program, the board wants to structure it more like other option classes with students having to specifically opt into the program because of religion’s sensitive nature in public school.