St. Albert Public Schools will remove all ‘permanent’ memorials – Edmonton

A recent decision leaves people without a way to honor a deceased loved one.

St. Albert Public Schools announced that all permanent memorials for staff and students in the division would be taken down.

The new directive upsets many, who say this is how they keep 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 continues in the room so it spreads everywhere,” he said.

After her death, her family established a memorial and scholarship for her at school. But her family recently received a phone call saying it was coming.

“It was the last thing we expected. I know I was quite upset about this. We have to change things, not take this as an answer,” McGaw said.

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Last week, St. Albert Public Schools released new guidelines that all permanent memorials would be taken down.

“In fact, our division has suffered immense losses over the past few years and not all of them have been treated fairly,” said Paula Power, communications manager for St. Albert Public Schools.

Going forward, the division will remove all memorials and encourage families to sponsor scholarships and fundraisers.

Power says that before implementing the new directive, they consulted with trauma experts. According to Power, they said memorials could have adverse effects and negatively impact the mental health of staff and students.

“Students and staff have no choice but to be in the building, do they? So if it triggers them for whatever reason, they have no choice but to be there and therefore have to see it every day,” Power said.

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The new guidelines are also upsetting Mikayla Jeske, who lost a close friend in 2017.

Every year his group of friends visit the memorial table, bench and plaque dedicated to Darian Ma at Hillgrove School on the anniversary of his death.

“I’ve always believed that a person wouldn’t die until someone said their name. We try to keep their names because they are important to us,” Jeske said.

Jeske and McGaw started an online petition, hoping to change the school division’s mind.

Power says they’re not entirely sure how many memorials there will be in schools across the city and that the new guidelines will be permanent.

St. Albert Public Schools is in the process of contacting the families and arranging for the memorials to be removed and returned. However, there is no timeline as to when it should be completed.

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