Stu­dent achieve­ment top pri­or­ity, says board

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE -

“As a par­ent, all I want is the best ed­u­ca­tion for my chil­dren,” Coombs said. But he is con­vinced un­der the planned re­con­fig­ured school sys­tem, that is not what they are go­ing to get.

Coombs made it clear “ the peo­ple of Har­bour Grace are not go­ing to sup­port the clo­sure of a rel­a­tively new school.”

He was re­fer­ring to Har­bour Grace Pri­mary, which opened in Novem­ber, 1989 at a cost of $ 2.4 mil­lion. The 21-year-old struc­ture is the new­est school build­ing in the Har­bour Grace-Car­bon­ear catch­ment area.

While stu­dent en­rol­ment at the pri­mary school was pro­jected to range from 167 to 176 pupils for 2010, Coombs pointed out they cur­rently have some 212 Kin­der­garten to Grade 5 stu­dents.

“ So en­rol­ment is not de­clin­ing,” he said.

In re­sponse to con­cerns from Car­bon­ear par­ents about bus­ing their chil­dren to Har­bour Grace, Coombs re­sponded: “ it’s only five kilo­me­tres.”

Coun. Joan Short is also a mem­ber of the Har­bour Grace Pri­mary school coun­cil.

Short said Car­bon­ear “def­i­nitely deser ves a new school” to re­place Davis, but she does not agree with it if it comes at the ex­pense of clos­ing schools in Har­bour Grace.

Short shares the mayor’s con­cerns about the risk of los­ing pro­grams like French Im­mer­sion.

“Are we go­ing to get the same pro­gram­ming, when the stu­dents cur­rently at­tend­ing St. Fran­cis are split be­tween Har­bour Grace and Car­bon­ear?” she asked.

Nei­ther does Short wish to see Har­bour Grace Pri­mary close. Af­ter she and her fel­low school coun­cil­lors have de­voted so much time into im­prov­ing the school, she said, “ it’s per­sonal to me ... it kills me to see it close.

She said the bet­ter op­tion would have been to build a new K-5 school in Car­bon­ear and al­low St. Fran­cis to re­main a 6-9 school for both towns.

“ Is this our fu­ture? Will all our chil­dren one day be go­ing to school in Car­bon­ear?,” she asked.

Short be­lieves all the stu­dents at St. Fran­cis are con­tent to be where they are, in­clud­ing those from Car­bon­ear. And if asked for their opin­ion, she is con­fi­dent, “ they would say they want to stay there.”

Same qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion

For Rice, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer/di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion with the Eastern School District, told The Com­pass the pro­gram­ming to be of­fered at the newly re­struc­tured St. Fran­cis will be the same as the other K-8 schools in the area and through­out the prov­ince.

Re­fer­ring to the K-8 schools in Har­bour Grace, Car­bon­ear and Vic­to­ria, Rice ex­plained, “ from our per­spec­tive, when the three schools are opened, there may be a dif­fer­ence in their pop­u­la­tions, but in pro­gram­ming it wi l l be the same.”

Ac­cord­ing to the district’s “ strate­gic plan,” the di­rec­tor ex­plained, “our No. 1 pri­or­ity is stu­dent achieve­ment.”

Point­ing out they have a fair num­ber of small schools, he said they “ pro­vide the pro­vin­cial cur­ricu­lum by qual­i­fied teach­ers with sub­ject ex­per­tise,” in all of them.

French Im­mer­sion

As for the French Im­mer­sion pro­gram, Rice ad­mit­ted, “over the past num­ber of years our num­bers at St. Fran­cis have been rel­a­tively low.” But in spite of that, he quickly added, “ we haven’t cut the pro­gram.”

Ac­cord­ing to the di­rec­tor, the num­ber of French Im­mer­sion stu­dents at St. Fran­cis is cur­rently down to 13. How­ever, he couldn’t say how many of those stu­dents are from Car­bon­ear.

He sug­gested strong num­bers are needed in French Im­mer­sion to sus­tain the pro­gram into high school.

From speak­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion at St. Fran­cis, Rice noted “ there was a lot of par­ent in­ter­est ex­pressed in the ( French Im­mer­sion) pro­gram ( just) last week.”

En­cour­aged by that in­ter­est, Rice sug­gested if it con­tin­ues he sees no rea­son the pro­gram couldn’t be con­tin­ued at St. Fran­cis as well as the new el­e­men­tary school in Car­bon­ear.

Asked how many of the 351 at­tend­ing St. Fran­cis are from Car­bon­ear, Rice said he didn’t have that fig­ure. The Com­pass at­tempted to get that num­ber last week, but none of the peo­ple we spoke with could pro­vide it. But it ’ s bel ieved well over 200 of the school’s pop­u­la­tion are from Car­bon­ear.

If it were to re­open for the 201314 school year as a re­con­fig­ured K8 school, Ford Rice says it is pro­jected to have ap­prox­i­mately 320 stu­dents.

When they l ooked at both school build­ings in Har­bour Grace, he said it was found the pri­mary school build­ing would be too small to ac­com­mo­date the num­bers the larger St. Fran­cis build­ing can hold.

Ap­prox­i­mately $ 4 mil­lion was spent on St. Fran­cis in 2009, af­ter rot and mold were found in the walls. But that work was not the “nec­es­sary ren­o­va­tions” re­ferred to in the board’s 2006 mo­tion.

Rice ex­plained some work still needs to be done with the wash­rooms at St. Fran­cis to ac­com­mo­date the younger pri­mary stu­dents.

Rice said Eastern School District’s motto is: to pro­vide the best qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in the best learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment to all of our stu­dents.”

And that is what will be of­fered to their stu­dents in Har­bour Grace, Car­bon­ear and through­out the district.

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