Whitbourne school saved
News not so good for Epiphany in Heart’s Delight-islington
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Parents and residents of Whitbourne cheer and embrace as the school board announces that Whitbourne Elementary will remain open.