Something in the school system just doesn’t add up
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.
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.