Changing the educational landscape
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