Some­thing in the school sys­tem just doesn’t add up

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY AN­THONY YOUNG An­thony Young writes from Whit­bourne.

On Feb. 7, I was sit­ting in the of­fice of a med­i­cal clinic wait­ing for my ap­point­ment. Ly­ing on the ta­ble next to me was the daily edi­tion of The Tele­gram news­pa­per. I de­cided to have a read while wait­ing.

As I flipped through the pa­per, an ar­ti­cle ti­tled “All-day kinder­garten would cover en­tire province if im­ple­mented: min­is­ter,” sud­denly caught my eye.

I was very in­ter­ested in this story be­cause my son had at­tended full­day kinder­garten at Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary School in the 2011-2012 school year. My son had a won­der­ful time and thrived in full- day kinder­garten. As par­ents, my wife and I were equally de­lighted in this ex­pe­ri­ence for him. Be­fore I make my point, I want to pro­vide some back­ground in­for­ma­tion on Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary.

In the fall of 2012, Whit­bourne school coun­cil pre­sented a va­ri­ety of data to East­ern School District to ar­gue the vi­a­bil­ity of the school within the Cres­cent Col­le­giate sys­tem. Facts were pre­sented on the in­creas­ing stu­dent en­rol­ment, the growth of our com­mu­nity and other sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion dur­ing the two pub­lic meet­ings.

The coun­cil high­lighted the success of the full-day kinder­garten pro­gram. The coun­cil high­lighted the success over the past 10 years of th e S tep­ping Ston es Fam­ily Re­source Cen­tre, which had been avail­ing of most of the va­cant class­room space for pre-school chil­dren. The coun­cil high­lighted the ef­forts of a steer­ing com­mit­tee that had been work­ing with East­ern Health and East­ern School District to es­tab­lish a full-time day­care fa­cil­ity at Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary School.

Un­for­tu­nately, the fi­nal ap­proval for the day­care project was stopped pend­ing the out­come of the 20112014 multi-year school re­view. In De­cem­ber 2012, the board of trustees voted to close Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary with­out fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion. The rea­son pro­vided for this de­ci­sion was based on the “overca- pac­ity of class­room space” within East­ern School District; no ad­di­tional data was pro­vided to the school coun­cil.

The Whit­bourne school coun­cil is now re­quest­ing an in­de­pen­dent re­view of this de­ci­sion and an im­me­di­ate stop to the school clo­sure process.

As I read down through the ar­ti­cle, there was no in­di­ca­tion as to how much full-day kinder­garten would cost. Ap­par­ently, cost es­ti­mates have not been made pub­lic but there was an in­di­ca­tion that our government may be head­ing in this di­rec­tion. Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Clyde Jack­man was quoted as say­ing, “I sus­pect at some point we are go­ing to have full-day kinder­garten.” I was over­joyed and de­lighted to hear such great news that would ben­e­fit the en­tire province.

Star­tling re­al­iza­tion

As I read on­wards, my feel­ings be­gan to change to anger, con­fu­sion and frus­tra­tion. I be­gan read­ing about the main is­sue our government has with im­ple­ment­ing full­day kinder­garten. Min­is­ter Jack­man stated, “The prob­lem isn’t the an­nual cost though, it’s find­ing the ex­tra class­rooms the school sys­tem would need.”

Ap­par­ently, schools within East­ern School District, es­pe­cially the St. John’s area, do not have the class­room space for full- day kinder­garten. Less than a month ago, there was an over­ca­pac­ity of class­room space within East­ern School District and now there is not enough class­room space to have full-day kinder­garten. Does this make sense to you?

In less than a year, I have heard about the many prob­lems within the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and East­ern School District; prob­lems such as the cut­ting of sec­re­tary po­si­tions and hours, a pro­posal to bus stu­dents four hours daily, a flawed school re­view process, an out­dated stu­dent trans­porta­tion pol­icy, and fall­ing cri­te­rion-ref­er­enced test scores.

In ad­di­tion, there may be a prob­lem with ei­ther the over­ca­pac­ity or un­der­ca­pac­ity of class­room space within East­ern School District. All of th­ese prob­lems are ei­ther the re­sult of hav­ing too many stu­dents trans­ported to larger schools or lead­er­ship is­sues within East­ern School District or the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Re­gard­less of who is re­spon­si­ble, th­ese mat­ters re­quire im­me­di­ate in­ter­ven­tion in or­der to find so­lu­tions. I, like many other peo­ple, be­lieve the ideal so­lu­tion would be to have a more in­te­grated ap­proach in the care and ed­u­ca­tion of our chil­dren in com­mu­nity schools. I be­lieve Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary can have this in­te­grated ap­proach. I know that it has the fa­cil­i­ties to of­fer full-day kinder­garten, a full­time day­care pro­gram, a full-time Step­ping Stone Pro­gram and a safe place for chil­dren to learn.

Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary is a very vi­able school and should not be closed.

As I placed the news­pa­per onto the ta­ble, I stood up to be­gin my walk into the doc­tor’s of­fice. As I strolled down the hall, I thought about the pos­si­ble rea­sons for clos­ing Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary and why our government would not want to sup­port full-time day­care or full-time kinder­garten in our school. In re­al­ity, only one of two peo­ple can an­swer that ques­tion: Min­is­ter Clyde Jack­man or the di­rec­tor of East­ern School District, Bruce Vey.

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