The Lethbridge Islamic Academy won’t be opening its doors at Wilson Middle School after all. Lethbridge School District No. 51 made the announcement late Wednesday and updated the media Thursday morning.
The Lethbridge Muslim Association, which headed the interest, has decided not to move forward with an expression of interest for the academy, saying bringing in the alternative program would be more complicated than first thought.
“When you compare a newborn program to any existing school, you will find that you can’t compete with the existing school in terms of quality of education,” Board Director Dr. Naji Saleh said.
“The quality of education is the most important for us.”
The interest in the academy came in October and a public meeting was held earlier this month to gauge support in the community.
The proposal for the Lethbridge Muslim Association received some negative feedback from the community, including a petition with over 400 signatures.
Supt. Cheryl Gilmore said the reactions weren’t all negative.
“There was some opposition but there was also some support that was expressed throughout the district,” Gilmore said. “I would say that it was mixed.
“I wouldn’t say that it was of a magnitude or a value that had things move forward. That it wouldn’t be necessarily a thing we couldn’t have worked with the community on.”
While some members of the community assumed the consideration for the alternative program was due to the influx of new immigrants settling in Lethbridge, Gilmore said that’s simply not the case.
“The impetus really came from the more established community and they happened to put forward an expression of interest at the same time Lethbridge also received a number of new arrivals of the Muslim faith,” Gilmore said.
The district and the Muslim Association are now considering the route of offering elective cultural and language classes to students. However, the exact nature of the optional program is still being explored.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published on Nov. 16 and updated Nov. 17 when the district explained why the program wasn’t moving forward.