The Seven Oaks School Division might be renaming a new school under construction before its doors are opened.
Ecole Templeton School — named after Templeton Avenue, where it’s being built — is potentially going to get a more meaningful title after the school board heard from the community Monday night.
Critics of the name have asked that the new school get a name more in line with the spirit of Indigenous reconciliation.
Superintendent Brian O’Leary told 680 CJOB it’s been the division’s practice for a number of years to give new schools “neutral”, usually geographically-based names rather than choosing public figures.
Choosing something with cultural significance, he said, is something the school board is open to considering.
“The Indigenous community is a significant part of our community. There’s a significant history with the Indigenous community in Seven Oaks as there is throughout Manitoba and Winnipeg.
“The board established the Ojibway bilingual program. We’ve done lots of things to see the staff reflect the community. All kinds of activities in support of reconciliation and really valuing Indigenous heritage and culture.”
Templeton Avenue itself, he said, was named after the architect of the Kildonan Park Golf Course.
University of Winnipeg professor Kevin Lamoureux said times change, and there’s a great opportunity to give the school a more significant name than simply the name of its street, and that a change would be another step toward reconciliation.
“I think we might have made a decision like this without even pausing in the past,” said Lamoureux, “but now we have this opportunity to hear from community members, to hear from people whose voices haven’t always been a part of this conversation.
“I think we have this opportunity to leave behind something better for our children than we inherited — which isn’t to suggest that Canada isn’t a great place, but to maybe remind ourselves that we haven’t reached our full potential yet. “
The 55,300-square-foot school will provide French Immersion education for students from kindergarten through Grade 5, as well as offering a daycare with 20 infant and 54 preschool child care spaces.
It’s expected to open in September, and was created to reduce crowding at nearby Amber Trails, A.E. Wright, James Nesbit and Constable Finney community schools.
Indigenous education consultant Rebecca Chartrand told 680 CJOB she’s on board with the move to rename Templeton.
“I think it’s important what’s happening in Seven Oaks … because when we look at this history of this country and the calls to action, the common denominator is relationships.
“I think being place-conscious about where we’re at — when we look at our history, our rivers have been renamed, our lands have been renamed, and much of the buildings that schools are named after are usually after white people who represent colonization.
“I think this is an opportunity for reconciliation, especially in light of Manitoba 150. We know that Manitoba would not have entered (Confederation) without Louis Riel.”
Chartrand said the change of a school name is more than just a cosmetic change because it starts a conversation about reconciliation and illuminating who Indigenous people are in their own homeland.
The school board will vote on a potential name change next week, after holding over the vote Monday night due to two absent trustees.