Whit­bourne school saved

News not so good for Epiphany in Heart’s De­light-is­ling­ton

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOSH PEN­NELL josh.pen­nell@thetele­gram.com

Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary has a new lease on life af­ter the Eastern School Dis­trict board of trus­tees voted to keep it open on July 10. Un­for­tu­nately, the news was not the same for Epiphany El­e­men­tary in Heart’s De­light-Is­ling­ton, which was also up for clo­sure.

A de­ci­sion on Wed­nes­day, July 10 that Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary will not be clos­ing as pre­vi­ously planned was met with thun­der­ous ap­plause by par­ents and res­i­dents of the com­mu­nity.

But the news wasn’t as up­beat for those fight­ing to save Epiphany El­e­men­tary in Heart’s De­light-Is­ling­ton. It will not re­open in Septem­ber.

Pub­lic back­lash

The board of trus­tees with the Eastern School Dis­trict first an­nounced plans for school amal­ga­ma­tions at the end of 2012 and stu­dents at Whit­bourne would be bused about 19 kilo­me­tres to Wood­land El­e­men­tary in Dildo. At least that was the plan. Pub­lic out­cry and protests from par­ents and res­i­dents of Whit­bourne put the ki­bosh on those plans, at least ten­ta­tively.

Par­ents ar­gued the rea­sons for the school’s clo­sure were never clearly laid out for the pub­lic. They felt so strongly about this that they were tak­ing the case to court when the school board re­lented.

The Eastern School Dis­trict pub­lished a more de­tailed rea­son­ing for the pro­posed clo­sures and of­fered to restart the process with a new round of pub­lic hear­ings — for both Whit­bourne and Epiphany — that would let op­po­nents voice their rea­sons why the schools should re­main.

On Wed­nes­day night, the board voted anony­mously by pa­per bal­lot, to keep the Whit­bourne school open. How­ever, the mo­tion to up­hold the clo­sure of Epiphany was passed.

Bri­anna Mercer, 21, who has no chil­dren, sat in the crowd crying for much of the pro­ceed­ings. Those tears turned to joy when the deci- sion came in to keep Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary open.

“I went to school (here) from K to 6 and I know how phe­nom­e­nal a school it is,” she said.

Mercer is in univer­sity with the hopes of be­com­ing a teacher.

“I want to teach at Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary so I’m re­ally glad the op­por­tu­nity is still go­ing to be there.”

Com­mu­nity sup­port

Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary School coun­cil chair­woman Patti Kennedy lob­bied hard to have the school re­main open. She com­mended the sup­port the coun­cil had re­ceived from peo­ple in its task and spoke about the chil­dren who would now ben­e­fit from stay­ing in their own com­mu­nity for to be ed­u­cated.

“To be able to stay in your home­town, es­pe­cially for the 37, 38 kids that have never rid­den the bus be­fore — you know to tell them now that ex­pe­ri­ence will only be con­fined to field trips — I think they’ll be quite happy with that.”

Kennedy added the coun­cil was look­ing for­ward to work­ing with the school board.

“We as a coun­cil and a com­mu­nity look for­ward to work­ing with the board as the months and years hope­fully come our way.”

Mil­ton Peach, chair­man of the Eastern School Dis­trict, said it went through the same con­sul­ta­tion process this time and looked at all the ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion they had re­ceived. As for why the de­ci­sion was dif­fer­ent, Peach didn’t point to any par­tic­u­lar rea­son, choos­ing in­stead to praise the process.

“I guess the sim­ple an­swer is that democ­racy is alive and well,” he said.

He added that the board is pre­pared to hear peo­ple out and make the best de­ci­sions it can based on in­for­ma­tion and opin­ions. “That’s what we’re about.” When pushed a lit­tle fur­ther as to what swayed the vote this time, Peach spoke about the peo­ple who ral­lied hard for their town.

“I think it’s fair to say with re­gard to Whit­bourne that there were very com­pelling ar­gu­ments made of the vi­a­bil­ity of Whit­bourne,” he said.

He added that peo­ple spoke pas­sion­ately about their grow­ing com­mu­nity and the school that they felt was best for the chil­dren of their town.

When asked which way he voted last time com­pared to this, Peach was coy.

“I’m not re­ally pre­pared to do that be­cause it would de­stroy the pur­pose of a pa­per bal­lot,” he said with a grin.

A vote was also taken on whether to close Epiphany El­e­men­tary in Heart’s De­light-Is­ling­ton.

The board voted to close that school as planned. Those stu­dents will be bused 17 kilo­me­tres to Acre­man El­e­men­tary in Green’s Har­bour.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins

COLOUR­FUL AM­BIANCE – Those tak­ing a stroll around the Ge­orge W. Earle Prom­e­nade next to the Con­cep­tion Bay Re­gional Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Car­bon­ear will no­tice coloured lights have been added to a town sta­ple – the foun­tain. The town de­cided to have the il­lu­mi­na­tions added to the foun­tain this year to cre­ate an am­biance for evening and night vis­i­tors to Car­bon­ear Pond and the board­walk. It was started up a lit­tle later than usual this year to en­sure all me­chan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal parts were in work­ing or­der. The coloured lights – called gels – are in­ter­change­able, so if the town de­cides to try other colours they will be able to at a much lower cost than re­plac­ing the en­tire mech­a­nism. The foun­tain floats on top of the wa­ter but is weighted down to keep it from float­ing around the pond.

Josh Pen­nell photo/the Tele­gram

Par­ents and res­i­dents of Whit­bourne cheer and em­brace as the school board an­nounces that Whit­bourne El­e­men­tary will re­main open.

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