Edmonton Public School Board trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to start the process of renaming two schools.
Dan Knott School in southeast Edmonton and Oliver School just west of downtown will be given new names after community members are given a chance to suggest new options.
EPSB board chair Trisha Estabrooks said the board made a “significant decision” on Tuesday.
“This is being driven by community and the community needs to be part of the next steps so the board of trustees will work with administration to come up with a plan,” she said after the board meeting. The board of trustees will have the final decision on the new names.
It’s still too early to know when the schools will be renamed, but the consultation process will be similar to when the board names new schools, Estabrooks said.
The board decision comes after EPSB student Aimee Dorsey petitioned to rename the Dan Knott School in southeast Edmonton because the former Edmonton mayor supported the Ku Klux Klan and shouldn’t have his name part of an inclusive place of learning. So far, Dorsey’s petition has more than 7,800 supporters.
Knott was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan and would go on to approve request for cross burnings at the former Exhibition Grounds.
“We need to teach students, and even adults, about our dark history after all these years of it being suppressed,” wrote Dorsey on the online petition.
The petition was noticed by trustee Michael Janz, who brought the motion to rename the schools forward for a vote.
“Both Dan Knott and Frank Oliver I do not believe are worthy of our highest honour which is a namesake of a school,” he said Tuesday.
Frank Oliver, a provincial and federal politician in the early 1900s, formed policies that pushed Indigenous people off their traditional land.
In Edmonton, his policies triggered the surrender of the Papaschase Reserve near Edmonton.
The Oliver community league is currently working with the city to rename their neighbourhood after launching their #UncoverOliver campaign.
As part of the campaign, the league officially opposed the neighbourhood’s name “because its namesake, Frank Oliver, spearheaded many harmful policies that directly targeted Indigenous communities, people of colour, newcomers and people with disabilities,” according to a statement on social media.
Robyn Paches, Oliver community league president, applauds the school board’s decision and hopes the board can be part of the process of renaming the neighbourhood.
“We especially like the process-driven lens they’re taking instead of a unilateral change to the name,” he said.
Since mid-June, the community league has met with Mayor Don Iveson and has met with city officials biweekly to figure out the best way to go about public consultation on a new community name.