A recent decision is leaving people without a way to honour a loved one who died.
St. Albert Public Schools announced that all permanent memorials for staff and students across the division will be taken down.
The new guideline is upsetting to many, who say this is how they keep the memory alive, like Aiden McGaw. McGaw lost his sister in 2021 and one of the many things McGaw remembers his sister Shea-Lynn for is her energetic personality.
“When she smiles, it carries on in the room so it spreads everywhere,” he said.
After she died, his family set up a memorial and scholarship for her at school. But his family recently got a phone call that it will be coming down.
“That was the last thing we expected to happen. I know I was pretty distraught about it. We’ve got to change things, not taking that as an answer,” McGaw said.
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Last week, St. Albert Public Schools sent out new guidelines that all permanent memorials will be taken down.
“We’ve actually suffered immense losses in our division in the past few years and they weren’t all being treated equitably,” said St. Albert Public Schools communications manager Paula Power.
From now on, the division will remove all memorials and encourage families to sponsor scholarships and fundraisers.
Power says before implementing the new guideline they consulted with trauma experts. According to Power, they said the memorials could have harmful effects as well as negatively impact staff and students’ mental health.
“Students and staff don’t have a choice about being in the building, right? So if it is triggering to them for whatever reason, they don’t have a choice to be there so they have to see that every day,” Power said.
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The new guidelines are also upsetting to Mikayla Jeske, who lost a close friend in 2017.
Each year, her friend group visits the memorial table, bench and plaque dedicated to Darian Ma at École Hillgrove School on the anniversary of his death.
“I’ve always believed that someone doesn’t die until no one speaks their name again. We are trying to keep their names out there because they are important to us,” Jeske said.
Jeske and McGaw have started a petition online, hoping to change the minds of the school division.
Power says they aren’t quite sure of the number of memorials at schools across the city and that the new guidelines will be permanent.
St. Albert Public Schools are in the process of contacting families and are arranging to have the memorials removed and returned. However, there’s no timetable for when it needs to be completed.
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