Clos­ing Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary de­fies logic

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Paulette Ralph, a mother of three, writes from Whit­bourne

Ahh, June. No other month quite like it.

Fi­nally, a day here and there to ven­ture out­side with­out socks or long-sleeves. Whis­pers of sum­mer on the breeze. A prom­ise of warmer weather, longer evenings, and time to rest and re­lax. The school year is wind­ing down. Ex­cite­ment is pal­pa­ble.

I imag­ine most par­ents an­tic­i­pate June with a unique com­bi­na­tion of long­ing and dread. They are busy ar­rang­ing day camps, reg­is­ter­ing for sum­mer pro­grams, and sched­ul­ing va­ca­tions. Thoughts of Septem­ber and the new school year are far from their minds.

Not so for the par­ents at Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary. On the cusp of sum­mer hol­i­days, Septem­ber 2016 has be­come like a dark cloud loom­ing over us. There is a chill in the air that we just can­not shake, put there by the New­found­land and Labrador English School District’s Board of Trus­tees when they voted to close our school.

If you do not live in Whit­bourne, you may be won­der­ing what all the fuss is about. There are two ele­men­tary schools, 27 kilo­me­tres apart, and ei­ther of the fa­cil­i­ties can ac­com­mo­date the com­bined stu­dent pop­u­la­tions. Both build­ings need re­pairs. Why not close one, cut op­er­at­ing costs in half, and save the empty-pock­eted gov­ern­ment thou­sands of dol­lars. It’s a no-brainer, right? Wrong. NLESD and its un­elected board did a fine job sim­pli­fy­ing is­sues. They met with our school coun­cil in Jan­uary with their ducks in a row. Par­ents and con­cerned stake­hold­ers were pro­vided with a School Re­view Pol­icy and a newly drafted GOV-104 doc­u­ment. In­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the process could be found on the district web­site.

We were en­cour­aged to pro­vide on­line feed­back. An evening of pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tions was sched­uled. We had am­ple op­por­tu­nity to ex­press our opin­ions, our con­cerns, our fears. And we did.

In fact, we went well be­yond opin­ions, con­cerns, and fears. We pre­sented facts. We of­fered ac­cu­rate data. We ex­pressed logic. We spoke with the voice of rea­son. We re­searched. We crunched numbers. We de­vel­oped bar graphs and spread­sheets. We pro­vided the board with ev­ery­thing they were lack­ing, and ex­plained to them the mul­ti­tude of rea­sons why Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary is not only a vi­able school, but also a vi­tal one.

We lost sleep. We shed tears of frus­tra­tion. We felt like pulling out our hair. Maybe that was just me, but I do not think so. Be­cause we could see so clearly the ne­ces­sity of this school for our chil­dren.

For the child who is a walk­ing stu­dent, but will now have to travel an hour, twice a day, on the school bus. For the child whose ADHD med­i­ca­tions will need to be dou­bled in or­der to cope with the ad­di­tional stres­sors. For the child whose re­cently de­vel­oped med­i­cal con­di­tion re­quires they be close to home and to an emer­gency clinic. For the child whose par­ents must choose be­tween full day in-class sup­port ser­vices or half-day sup­port with the re­main­der of time

“And so, our fight con­tin­ues, per­haps a lit­tle less qui­etly. While oth­ers are plan­ning play­dates in the park, we will be protest­ing.”

used for bus su­per­vi­sion. For the child whose phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity will mean they will now have to be home-schooled. For the child who suf­fers from anx­i­ety.

For each of th­ese chil­dren, and the 80 or more oth­ers whose is­sues I know noth­ing about, or whose only is­sue may be that they want to at­tend a school in their thriv­ing, grow­ing home­town. Vi­able. And vi­tal. For two and a half months, we fought – al­beit qui­etly. We held on to the shred of hope that, de­spite the per­ceived bias, de­spite hav­ing our school re­viewed twice in less than three years, we could en­lighten the board and con­vince them this school need not close.

And yet, in the face of all that we had said and done, those un­elected trus­tees voted by se­cret bal­lot to close Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary. The bal­lots were de­stroyed im­me­di­ately af­ter the vote. The chair then had the gall to say that they lis­tened to us. Clearly, they did not.

And so, our fight con­tin­ues, per­haps a lit­tle less qui­etly. While oth­ers are plan­ning play­dates in the park, we will be protest­ing. While oth­ers are at­tend­ing soccer prac­tice, we will be pe­ti­tion­ing. While oth­ers are set­ting up sprin­klers, we will be hold­ing signs and sing­ing the praises of Whit­bourne Ele­men­tary.

We will do this un­til some­one who has the author­ity to do so re­verses the de­ci­sion to close this school. Only then will the clouds be cleared away. Only then will we ex­pe­ri­ence sum­mer in all of its un­bri­dled glory, the way it is meant to be.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.