Approximately 100 students from Kelly Road Secondary School took to the streets at noon to protest the proposed name change for the replacement school currently under construction.
Students waved hand-made signs and chanted "keep our name," while passing drivers honked in support.
"I woke up this morning and people had all over their feeds they are changing the name of the school," rally organizer and Kelly Road student Gloria Butcher said. "I just thought, 'no it's not.' Kelly Road is part of the community and doesn't need a name change. I want to graduate from Kelly Road, just like my father."
On Tuesday, the School District 57 board of trustees unanimously approved a motion by trustee Trent Derrick to engage in the renaming process, after the board was approached by two Lheidli T’enneh First Nation elders. Elders Kenora Stewart and Clifford Quaw, accompanied by Lheidli T'enneh Chief Clay Pountney, requested the new school be named Shas Ti Secondary School. The name means ‘grizzly path” and would reflect the area’s past as a grizzly bear habitat.
The new $44.3 million school will hold 900 students and will replace the original Kelly Road built in the early 1960s.
Butcher said it doesn't matter what the new name is; it was the suddenness and lack of consultation students were unhappy with.
"We just woke up and found out," she said. "I think it would be different if they'd held a vote in the school."
Many student athletes with the Kelly Road Roadrunners just got new jerseys, which all would have to be replaced, she added.
Alexander Gogolin said he wanted people to know students' opposition isn't about racism or anti-Indigenous sentiment.
"I'm Cree, but I disagree with the name change. Kelly Road has been the name for over 50 years," Gogolin said. "My sister graduated from Kelly Road, and I want to graduate from Kelly Road too."
Graduating from Kelly Road is a family tradition for Tristan Sitoski, who has five family members – including his grandmother and grandfather – who attended the school.
"I don't think it's right it's going to change without giving people any say," Sitoski said.
Grade 11 students Mackenzie Crerar and Farrah Normand said changing the name won't affect the members of the school board, but it does matter to the students who attend there, take part in sports and extra- curricular activities there, and so on.
"They can tell us it's not going to change anything, but it will change the character of the school," Crerar said.