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Protest against Kelly Road Secondary name change to take place this weekend at SD57 offices

SD57 Board voted unanimously to engage in changing the school's name to Shas ti
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(Left photo via Jess Fedigan. Photo of school via Inland Control and Services)

There are more protests planned amid the Kelly Road Secondary School possible name change controversy. 

A Facebook group has now appeared titled: DONT RENAME KELLY ROAD SECONDARY SCHOOL which states there will be a protest this Saturday (Mar. 1) outside the SD57 offices at 10 a.m. 

In a unanimous decision by the Board of Education at a meeting on Feb. 25, and at the request of Lheidli T’enneh Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney and Elders, SD57 trustees agreed to take the step forward to truth and reconciliation in renaming Kelly Road to Shas ti, which, in Dakelh, means ‘Grizzly Bear Trail’ or ‘Path.’

Trustee Trent Derrick made the motion that the board engage in a process to rename the newly constructed Kelly Road Secondary School to Shas ti.

“We, as a board, have made a commitment to the truth and reconciliation and sealed this commitment in unity with the Lheidli T’enneh in their government system of the Balhats. It was here that we made the commitment to work nation-to-nation and government system-to-government system,” said Derrick.

“In the spirit of the work, what has been presented to us tonight is the opportunity to honour our commitment to move forward. Tonight, we have a chance to honour the long history of the Lheidli T’enneh and make a statement that this board will be different in its relationship with the Lheidli T’enneh.”

At the meeting, Chair Tim Bennett said the board would be kidding themselves if they didn’t think there would be people questioning the change.

“We know that Kelly Road has a history and legacy in this district and that there’s going to be people questioning this decision, but I also believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Bennett.

Bennett added he's looking forward to standing beside the Lheidli T’enneh to help them share the stories and knowledge of the land they presented to the board during the meeting, and engage students in the process of developing a new identity for the building.  

“Not everyone will agree and that’s okay because this is a good rebirth for the high school north of the Nechako.”

Less than half-a-day later, around 9:30 a.m. yesterday morning (Feb. 26), an online petition had reached more than 3,300 signatures in support of keeping Kelly Road Secondary School’s name as is and criticizing School District 57 (SD57) for not consulting with the public first. 

The petition is now over more than 8,000 signatures. A petition has also been started with those we support the name change to Shas ti Secondary School which currently has more than 400 signatures. 

Yesterday afternoon, current students at the high school stood along Highway 97 just outside of the building, also voicing their displeasure over the decision. 

Chants including "KRSS" and "Keep Our Name" were shouted while some driving by honked their horns in support of the students.

After the strong backlash on social media, Board Chair Tim Bennett issued a statement yesterday evening, saying the board acknowledges they failed in fully engaging the community. 

"We acknowledge that there is passion and school spirit for Kelly Road and the Hart community that was exhibited today, which will probably continue for some time as we move through this process," he said. 

"Given our enthusiasm for the new direction, we acknowledge that we failed to fully engage the community connected to Kelly Road school."

Bennett also said he wanted to add clarification about the process, saying that the motion was to "engage in the process" of a new name. 

"We need to be clear that the motion carried at the Feb. 25, 2020 Regular Public Board Meeting was to 'engage in the process' of a new name, and the Board of Education is committed to doing so before the school opening in Sept. 2020."

The School District also announced in the letter that they will now be outlining a series of opportunities for community engagement regarding the project. 

"They will provide a forum for purposeful dialogue to move forward," the statement reads. 

Those that have direct feedback are encouraged to email kellyroadfeedback@sd57.bc.ca.

- with files from Hanna Petersen and Kyle Balzer, PrinceGeorgeMatters