Michael Phair School hosts grand opening to honour former city councillor

A junior high school in west Edmonton hosted a grand opening on Monday to honour its namesake, long-time city councillor Michael Phair.

Phair, Edmonton’s first openly gay city councillor, didn’t believe at first that a public school would be named for him.

“I was flabbergasted, extremely surprised and a bit taken aback,” Phair told CBC News. “It’s quite an honour … but I wondered whether they really meant to call me or not.”

The Edmonton Public School Board looks to name its schools after people who contribute to education, to the city’s community at-large and to those who represent diversity. 

During his 15 years representing central Edmonton on city council, Phair made community engagement one of his priorities.

He was a strong advocate for social justice issues, using his position as board member of the Edmonton Pride Society and Edmonton Homeward Trust to fight for LGBTQ rights and reducing homelessness.

Phair also created HIV Edmonton, a harm-reduction agency with a mission to educate Edmontonians about HIV.

The MIchael Phair School website says its staff will represent Phair’s “outstanding personal qualities and community-minded legacy.”

The former city councillor has high hopes for the students at his namesake school. He wants it to be a place where the next generation will learn the merits of public life.

“I hope that it supports a path of them becoming productive citizens and a credit to the city that we live in and the province and the country, that they’re contributing members of society,” he said.

The school was open in time for the beginning of the 2017-18 school year but the grand opening was delayed to Monday night while the school was accommodating extra students from a nearby school, said a spokesperson for Edmonton Public School Board.

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