More con­sul­ta­tions on school clos­ings sched­uled

The Compass - - OPIN­ION -

The board also held firm on its com­mit­ment to close Catalina Ele­men­tary.

No­tice of mo­tions that call for the clos­ing of all three schools at the end of this aca­demic year were tabled at the meet­ing, and will be voted on next month.

The board did of­fer a re­prieve to Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion in Col­liers, how­ever. The K-6 school was ini­tially rec­om­mended for clo­sure, but the board is now serv­ing no­tice that it will re­con­fig­ure the school into a K-4 fa­cil­ity, with Grades 5 and 6 stu­dents bused to Ron­calli in Avon­dale.

Ron­calli, which is now Grade 7-Level III, will likely wel­come Grades 5 and 6 next year.

Holy Cross Ele­men­tary in Holy­rood, which had also been marked for clo­sure, will also re­main open, while Swift Cur­rent Academy will be re­con­fig­ured from an all-grade to a K-9 school. Swift Cur­rent had also been rec­om­mended for per­ma­nent clo­sure prior to a se­ries of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions that re­sulted in an in­tense lobby by those op­posed to the hour-long bus ride to Clarenville.

Clo­sures make sense

Mean­while, board chair­man Mil­ton Peach of Car­bon­ear said the board feels very strongly that con­sol­i­da­tion is re­quired in the so-called Cres­cent sys­tem.

Peach said en­rol­ment at Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary and Epiphany Ele­men­tary is de­creas­ing “rapidly,” the schools are op­er­at­ing at well be­low their in­tended ca­pac­ity, it’s be­com­ing more chal­leng­ing to de­ploy teach­ers, and the bus­ing will be con­sis­tent with prac­tices through­out the dis­trict, prov­ince and At­lantic Canada.

“Put­ting them to­gether at this time makes the most sense for ef­fi­ciency,” said Peach.

If the board votes in favour of the mo­tions, the roughly 80 stu­dents at­tend­ing Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary will be bused to Wood­land Ele­men­tary in Dildo, while the less-than-50 stu­dents at Epiphany will travel to Acre­man Ele­men­tary in Green’s Har­bour.

This will re­sult in three schools in the Lower Trin­ity South re­gion — Cres­cent Col­le­giate in Blake­town (Grade 7 to Level III), and Wood­land and Acre­man.

De­spite ar­gu­ments that stu­dent en­rol­ment would ei­ther stay con­sis­tent or in­crease, Peach said the facts tell a dif­fer­ent story.

Those lob­by­ing to save Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary, for ex­am­ple, re­peat­edly em­pha­sized the growth in hous­ing in the town.

“But from all of the work and re­search we could do and con­sul­ta­tion with var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, we could not find any great ev­i­dence that Whit­bourne had a growth of chil­dren,” said Peach, “so we went for­ward with the no­tice of mo­tion ( for clo­sure).”

Many par­ents also raised con­cerns about bus­ing, but Peach said even those stu­dents trav­el­ling the far­thest dis­tance will be “in line” with to­day’s stan­dards.

He also re­minded par­ents that dur­ing a threat of in­clement weather, it’s likely that schools will be closed.

“The is­sue of bus safety is a pri­or­ity,” Peach stated.

While the di­rec­tion of the board now seems crys­tal clear, that doesn’t mean the time for di­a­logue is over.

The board will host an­other se­ries of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings in the com­ing weeks.

Here is a break­down of those meet­ings:

• Nov. 26 — Dis­cov­ery Col­le­giate, Bon­av­ista; • Nov. 27 — Swift Cur­rent Academy; • Dec. 3 — Cres­cent Col­le­giate, Blake­town;

• Dec. 4 — Ron­calli Cen­tral High School, Avon­dale.

All ses­sions be­gin at 6:30 p.m.


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