Coley’s Point Primary replacement deferred
Budget 2016 held little good news for parents hoping for the replacement of Coley’s Point Primary in Bay Roberts.
Brought down Thursday by the Liberal government, the budget cut into any construction plans for education projects, including the Conception Bay North region.
As a result, the replacement of the 60-year-old facility has been deferred for three years.
The news isn’t sitting well with Coley’s Point Primary school council chairperson Lisa Neville. She said the contents of the budget are an example of government putting other interests ahead of the province’s children.
“We’re disheartened that not only our children, but other children in rural Newfoundland are bearing the brunt of (the cuts),” said Neville.
She points to money allocated for the continued construction of Team Gushue Highway as a prime indication that the Liberal’s “priorities are not with the children.”
“They’re putting money into infrastructure, into a highway, yet their not putting it into Coley’s Point Primary,” said Neville. “It’s really not good enough. We don’t believe that a road, for example, takes priority over … the healthy and safety of our children.”
Money for the design and land acquisition for a new school was included in the previous two budgets presented by the Conservative government.
Land had been acquired alongside Amalgamated Academy in the community and there was even a sign installed on the land earmarked for the project.
“Coley’s Point Primary should be the No.1 priority,” said Neville.
Education minister Dale Kirby issued a statement after the budget announcement. In it he wrote that “Coley’s Point will remain in the long-term plans for school infrastructure, but there is no funding allocated in Budget 2016 to move this pro- ject forward at this time.”
The minister noted money was allocated for schools “where capacity is an issue.”
However, Coley’s Point Primary is bursting at the seams with a school population that runs in the vicinity of 360 children. There are concerns with airflow, possible mold in the basement and the usage of space in a way it was not originally intended. Things like using the cafeteria and other rooms as classrooms to accommodate students.
“I think Mr. Kirby should come out to Coley’s Point Primary and see how we are bursting at the seams,” she said. “Take a tour through our school so he knows that we are the top school … and we have so many issues right now with health and safety.
“They might not see it because they don’t want to see it, but it’s there. The parents are not going to settle.”
The next step for the school council will be to continue to lobby government for the replacement.
“There has to be funds come the fall for this,” said Neville.
MHA will continue to push for replacement
Harbour Grace- Port de Grave MHA Pam Parsons said a replacement for the school has been a top priority in her district for a number of years.
“It is disappointing to see that (the school) has been deferred,” she said. “It hasn’t been cancelled, but it has been deferred. My heart went out to residents. When I saw it, my heart dropped. It’s the first thing I looked for.
“Residents are dedicated to it. I have shown my support for this and I will continue to stand by this. I respect the situation that we’re in … I respect my colleagues, but at the same time, I have to stand for the people of Harbour Grace-Port de Grave with our parents and our students.”
Earlier this year, the Bay Roberts town council tabled a letter that will see portable classrooms used at the school to handle the overflow of students. Those are expected to take up much of the small playground space at the far end of the school.
“Coley’s Point gets older and for another three years, the children and the staff have to put up with a facility that is totally inadequate,” said Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood. “I’m extremely upset by the news. I’m feeling a sense of anger and disappointment.
“Isn’t it just ironic that three years will bring us close to the next election again?”
Coley’s Point suffered the same fate as planned schools in Paradise (high school, Grade 5-8 school), Gander (reconstruction K-3) and Shoal Harbour.
“I think it’s fair to say the children (of the area) have been let down,” said Wood.
The planned replacement for Coley’s Point Primary has been deferred for three years following an announcement made during Budget 2016.
Coley’s Point Primary school council chairperson Lisa Neville.