Happier times a week later
Whitbourne motorcade celebrates court’s ruling to save school
Everyone was in a cheerful mood last Thursday evening as people gathered in the parking lot of Whitbourne Elementary, awaiting the start of a celebratory motorcade.
A week earlier, supporters of the cause to prevent the closure of the K-6 school received some welcome news from the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal. Three justices ruled appointed members of Newfoundland and Labrador English School District’s board of trustees didn’t have the authority last year to close the school.
“Going from the last two or three years of uncertainty to now, it’s starting to feel like we have a bit of closure,” said Rudy Mercer, a parent and school council member who took part in Thursday’s motorcade along with his son. He’s also a member of the Help Whitbourne Elementary Committee.
There have been multiple instances over the last few years where students and parents were unsure whether they’d have a school in Whitbourne the following September. It was scheduled to close last fall and this coming fall, but court decisions reversed those closures in both cases.
Wade Smith, a member of both the school council and the Help Whitbourne Elementary Committee, believes the current board of trustees, made up of members elected last fall, is less likely to push for another school review.
“I just hope that with the new trustees in place — and I think we have a little bit better rapport with them — that school is just going to be left alone for the time being.”
If another school review is ordered, Smith said further action to protect its future would be taken.
“We’ve talked to our lawyer. I think if we were to come up for a review again within the next few years, we would consider that harassment,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Kristi Sooley, a school council and committee member with two children attending Whitbourne Elementary, found her experience the last two years fairly stressful.
“It’s very stressful on the parents, the teachers, the students, and hopefully we won’t have to go through it anymore.”
Like Smith, she’s optimistic about the school’s future, having attended recent board of trustees meetings.
“I will say this — I really feel like the new board of trustees is finally listening to things that we have to say, and even if the court didn’t overturn the decision, I think that there was a very good chance that they would have helped us.”
Had the court ruled against the appeal, students would have commenced taking the bus to Woodland Elementary in Dildo in the fall. Linda Barrett felt that would have been bad news for her family.
“I have a little granddaughter, she’s only four years old, and she would have had to leave here early in the morning, about 7:30 a.m., go all the way down to Dildo, and she’s definitely going to fall asleep … then on the way back, she’s going to do the same thing, she said. “How is she going to learn like that?
“We’re so happy. We’ve got three grandchildren, so hopefully it will never close.”
Dozens of vehicles took part in a motorcade Thursday evening to celebrate a court of appeal decision to keep Whitbourne Elementary open.