Should non-Catholic students be allowed to attend Catholic Elementary schools in Waterloo Region?

Right now, restrictions surround which non-Catholics can attend.  But one Catholic Trustee feels the local separate school board should be more inclusive.

A task force was set up to look into the issue but its members still haven’t met.  Still, parents with students in Catholic elementary school say they’d have no problem allowing children of other faiths to enroll.

At a local baseball game, some of the players on the team go to public elementary school, while others go to Catholic elementary school.

Parents at the baseball game feel if their kids can play ball together, they can learn together.

“I don’t see why we should cut out the people that are non-Catholic.” Melissa Henderson says.

Right now, only two school boards in Ontario admit non-Catholic elementary students without restrictions.

Local Catholic board officials say in a statement: “For several decades Waterloo Region’s Catholic Schools have admitted non-Catholic students to our elementary schools.  The admissions are made on a case by case basis by the Director of Education.”

Non-Catholics can also be admitted if their parents were baptised.

The question is – what does inclusion, faith-based education look like?

Speaking on his own behalf, Catholic Trustee Anthony Piscitelli says Catholic elementary schools should be open to everyone.

“If we really want to value that idea, opening up our elementary system to non-Catholics is a great way to do that.” Piscitelli says.

Things get murky when the conversation changes to curriculum.  In March, a Brampton father successfully lobbied to have his sons omitted from religious classes, even though they attend a Catholic high school.

“Our teachers are taught to look for ‘teachable moments’ is what they’re called.  Opportunities to bring faith into other parts of the curriculum.” Piscitelli says.

Kim Foell’s son wasn’t baptised and was left out of certain classes at Saint Matthew’s.

“When the time came for them to go to church and do their part, he just didn’t go that day.” Foell says.

Adding non-Catholics would also boost enrollment.  The Catholic board tackled a $6.6 million deficit last year but Piscitelli says allowing non-Catholics likely wouldn’t add many students.

“To me, the issue is much more about what are the values of the Catholic system, how are we living those values, and can we share those values with people from other religions?” Piscitelli says.

Piscitelli suggests trustees can push for the changes or the Catholic board should just hold a referendum on the issue.

Again, Piscitelli views are not shared by everyone on the school board.