Chang­ing the ed­u­ca­tional land­scape

The Compass - - OPINION -

Ex­pect the de­bate about how ed­u­ca­tion is to be de­liv­ered in the Trin­ity-Con­cep­tion re­gion to get in­ter­est­ing once again now that the Eastern School Dis­trict has re­leased its multi-year plan for 2011-2014.

The doc­u­ment, which was posted to the board’s web­site last week and spot­lights the ar­eas out­side St John’s, pro­poses the clo­sure of five ru­ral schools, in­clud­ing three in this re­gion — Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary, Epiphany El­e­men­tary in Heart’s De­light and Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion in Col­liers. This will also lead to a re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of a host of other schools in places such as Dildo, Heart’s Con­tent and Avon­dale.

The board is also re­quest­ing, among other things, that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment fund the con­struc­tion of a new school in bustling Bay Roberts to re­place the ag­ing Co­ley’s Point El­e­men­tary.

It’s the big­gest pro­posed shake-up of the ed­u­ca­tional land­scape in this area since the cre­ation of the Eastern School Dis­trict some seven years. The mega-sized board main­tains ap­prox­i­mately 5.5 mil­lion square feet of floor space and 119 school, with ap­prox­i­mately 40,000 students and 4,000 teach­ing and sup­port staff.

Those who fol­low and un­der­stand the de­mo­graphic and eco­nomic trends tak­ing place in this re­gion should not be sur­prised by the board’s pro­pos­als. The stu­dent en­rol­ment in many ar­eas has shrunk dra­mat­i­cally over the years, and that trend is not expected to change. And given the fact the board is man­dated to wisely in­vest the pub­lic money it is al­lot­ted, stream­lin­ing is to be expected, de­spite the fact it will gen­er­ate op­po­si­tion from those who want to hang on to their neigh­bour­hood schools.

But the fact re­main that some of these schools were built to ac­com­mo­date much larger pop­u­la­tions, and are now se­verely un­der-uti­lized. And in the case of Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion in Col­liers, there have long been con­cerns about the lack of a gym­na­sium.

As par­ents, we should de­mand the best for our chil­dren, es­pe­cially when it comes to a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. But there has to be a recog­ni­tion that there are lim­ited re­sources, and the days of a school in ev­ery community are long gone. So, too, are the days of large fam­i­lies.

That said, mak­ing the de­ci­sion to close a school should never be taken lightly, and should be ex­am­ined from ev­ery an­gle. We have no rea­son to be­lieve that wasn’t done in this case, but that should not dis­cour­age any­one who wishes to present their opin­ion from do­ing so.

The board will hold pub­lic hear­ings — Oct. 29 in Blake­town and Oct. 30 in Avon­dale — be­fore mak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion at a meet­ing in Spa­niard’s Bay on Dec. 13. The trans­parency of the process is re­as­sur­ing, and should be ex­ploited fully by any­one wish­ing to present their views, whether con­trary or like-minded.

— Terry Roberts

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