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BEHIND THE SCENES: Renaming an Oakville high school comes with a price of $250,000

Oakville News reporter Ben Brown takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed.

Today's spotlight is on Oakville News' Ben Brown, whose story "Renaming an Oakville high school comes with a price of $250,000" was published on Mar. 8.

Below is the full story, in case you missed it.

An Oakville high school will undergo a name change due to its deemed offensive nature.

The issue of renaming Iroquois Ridge High School took centre stage during a March 6 meeting of the Halton District School Board (HDSB).

The school, which opened in 1994, is located on Glenashton Drive in northeast Oakville.

"As you're aware, the HDSB received a formal request from a community member to consider renaming Iroquois Ridge High School," said Heather Francey, the school board's Manager of Communications. “Staff have reviewed the submitted rationale and have determined that it meets the criteria for initiating a review of the school name as outlined in the governance procedure.”

“The board's School Naming governance procedure indicates that the director shall forward renaming requests and rationale to the board, and where it appears that the request meets the criteria established in the governance procedure, an estimate of the cost of renaming the school will also be provided.”

The main concern is that the term "Iroquois" is considered derogatory. But school board trustees pointed out that this name change wouldn't end with the high school, and that numerous other Oakville locations share the name Iroquois.

Consultation with treaty partners revealed support for the renaming recommendation. Both the HDSB's Indigenous Rights and Education Human Rights Equity and Inclusion Team and the Human Rights and Equity Adviser also endorsed the proposed change.

But Oakville trustee Tanya Rocha, who represents the area where the school is located, raised concerns about the completeness of the report, particularly in providing historical context for the current name, "Iroquois Ridge."

As well, trustees expressed concerns about the estimated $250,000 cost of a name change, highlighting the need for fiscal responsibility amidst budget constraints.

Burlington trustee Xin Yi Zhang​​ questioned the urgency and necessity of a name change, given other pressing matters before the board.

Superintendent ​Claire Proteau​​ emphasized consultation with treaty partners and the significance of respecting their perspectives. She added that while other locations in Oakville might bear similar names, the board has responsibility for addressing its own school names.

Chair of HDSB Kelly Amos provided historical context regarding the origin of the school's name, explaining that it was named after the land on which it was built. She elaborated that the area was once an ancient shoreline of Lake Iroquois, which formed during the last ice age approximately 12,000 years ago. 

"When the lake receded itself to Lake Ontario it left behind a ridge which was comprised of hill and forest, so when the school was built it was named after the land it was situated on," Amos said. 

The motion passed with nine voting in favour and only trustees Rocha and Zhang voting against the motion. 

According to the staff report, “A name change will involve a number of expenditures, including rebranding, change in signage (some installed individually, others embedded in a fixture or floor), any supplies with the school information, school athletic wear, etc. The cost is estimated at $250,000, including operating and capital expenses.”