Weekend protest bemoans proposal to close Catalina Elementary

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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More than 200 students, parents, supporters gather in front of school

Olivia holds a sign that implies Eastern School District’s Board of Trustees does not think of her as a person but simply as a number. — Submitted photo

More than 200 people turned out for a protest in front of Catalina Elementary Sunday in reaction to the recent release of a report from Eastern School District’s Board of Trustees that recommends the school’s closure.

“Our school is the heart of our community, and the community members are out in full support because we feel if we lose our school, we’re going to lose our community as well,” said parent Tom Cooper, who spoke with The Telegram after Sunday’s protest had concluded.

“We’re going to keep lobbying the people that need to be lobbied — the board of trustees and (Education Minister Clyde Jackman) — and we’re going to helpfully show them that the decision they’re making is not in the best interest of these kids.”

Many students who attended the rally held signs that displayed their name and stated emphatically that they are “not a number.”

Cooper has two children attending the school — a daughter in Grade 8 who will move on to Discovery Collegiate in Bonavista next fall and a son in Grade 4.

“We want to keep him in a school that’s better maintained,” he said.

Cooper said he would like to see Eastern School District chair Milton Peach provide the people with the information that has prompted the board’s recommendation.

“Right now, we don’t see anything as a benefit. We actually feel it’s going to be (to the) detriment of the kids. Their role as board of trustees members is to enhance our kid’s education and do what’s best for the kids of the province, and not to take it away from them.”

Not having those details will make the task of presenting a case to counter the board’s recommendation more difficult than it should be, according to Cooper.

“They’re not really telling us anything except that the schools in Bonavista are big enough to hold all the kids in the area, and that’s the only thing that they’re using. That’s the only argument they have. We don’t see how it’s going to save a lot of money in the long term, because our school is modern. It doesn’t need a lot of renovations.”

Students in the K-6 grades will be sent to Matthew Elementary in Bonavista, while those in grades 7-8 will attend Discovery Collegiate if Catalina Elementary is closed in June of next year. The two communities are 17 kilometres apart.

Among those who attended the protest was Bonavista South MHA Glen Little. Cooper said Little has listened to their concerns and will hopefully help serve as a mediator between area residents and the government on the matter.

arobinson@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Geographic location: Bonavista

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Recent comments

  • Anonymous
    October 18, 2012 - 20:15

    there is one simple reason for closing schools, its all about student numbers meaning that if there is less than 15 students in a class its just as well to combine them with another school with a similar issue, its really not a bad idea to close this school because look at it this way Matthew Elementary is a perfect school and only 15 minutes away the only thing they need is a sensible principal and its perfect, not only that Catalina students have to travel to Bonavista to go to Discovery Collegiate High School and no one complains about that so folks just cool it and try change, remember change is good even though you may not want it!!!!

  • Krista
    October 15, 2012 - 22:06

    here is the video from the rally http://youtu.be/3BjJcH7u7e0

  • Jeanette Lodge
    October 15, 2012 - 21:56

    I agree with keeping the Catalina elementary open so that my grandniece's education does not suffer. I live away on the mainland, and grew up in schools with large class sizes both in Ontario and Manitoba; I can tell you from experience that children get lost in the crowd, and do not get the individual attention they need in classes with more than 30 students. I live in a city that should be embarrassed, for turning out some of the lowest math and literacy grades in the country. Please do not do to your children, what budget cuts have done too many of the children here. I recently tutored adults that do not have any idea where the decimal point belongs when doing basic money calculations. I have heard teachers complain they do not have time to deal one on one, with students needing a higher level of help and attention. We have private expensive tutoring companies popping up all over my city, to try and compensate for public educations short falls. Do not let money come between these children, and the attention they need in order to achieve the futures they deserve!

  • Fred Russell - Port Union
    October 15, 2012 - 09:42

    To ' A Parent'......we know who's pulling the strings. Look and see what areas are not losing schools and look and see what areas are getting new schools....something in common there ! This process is a joke.....To 'A Businessman' - you don't care which schools close but thankfully most of us do care about our young people. Guess the almightly $ is your priority. Shame on you for those comments ! Do you have time to be reading The Telegram isn't there money out there needed to be earned and saved !

  • Isaac Norman
    October 15, 2012 - 09:34

    How can the school board even attempt to justify moving students from a twenty year old school that has already been refurbished to a forty year old building ? This old building has already had issues with leaky roofs and windows. and mould problems. A qualified building inspector will tell you that with significant improvements in building materials over the twenty year period mean that Catalina Elementary will have no mould problems. Parents should demand an independent inspection of both buildings and a public declaration of the results.

  • a buiness man
    October 15, 2012 - 09:27

    I really don't care which school gets closed, as long as at least some schools get closed. If we can educate the same amount of children with less buildings, less teachers, less principals and less janitors, then we should do it. We should be educating as many children as possible with as little workers/educators as possible. Then we will save on wages, pensions and benefits. So again, I really don't care which school gets closed, as long as at least some schools get closed

    • vince dwyer
      October 15, 2012 - 11:03

      Less teachers less schools you must work for the board. I image how many children do you want in a class 40 ,50,60 and what one teacher . Yea that would be a great education for our children schools with smaller class size and smaller school is in general produce better rounded more educated students students https://sites.google.com/site/savekingstoncityschools/school-size Closing schools is not the answer here education should be top priority of the government. Closing schools larger class sizes , all it does in the end is let children fall through the cracks .These children that do fall through the cracks in the education system then get lower paying jobs and some become a burden on the tax payer .Remember this one day these children that you are messing with there education will be looking after you in one way or another !!!

    • A Business person
      October 15, 2012 - 22:08

      Maybe we should cut the wages of Members of Parliment, then we'd have lots of money to fund schools... Mr. Business Man doesn't have any school aged children or he would want children to have the best education available to them, in a safe, caring environment.... DON'T FORGET, THESE ARE THE LEADERS OF THE FUTURE!!!

  • A parent
    October 15, 2012 - 09:09

    I am just wondering how is it that the Eastern School Board can make a decision to close the only school within certain areas,when these children already have to be bused on school buses which may take up to 30 minutes already.Now they have to be placed at another school which could take up to 45 minutes to get to their classes.When in St john's there are 3-4 Elmentary within 15 minutes to one another,or the same as JR High and again High Schools,which ever students are bused what are they on the bus for a tops of 15 minutes.People could say that St John,s is more populated and yes it is but when you got Elemetary schools from k-6. With a student count of 170-175 and a school 2streets one way and another school 5 km the other way and neither school full then there is something wrong here.We are all under the Eastern School Board and close the school that is needed and leave other ones open when they can be pulled together makes you wonder who are really pulling the strings.

  • Fred Russell - Port Union
    October 15, 2012 - 07:16

    My Letter To Premier Dunderdale and Minister Jackman : Dear Premier Dunderdale & Minister Jackman, I am a resident of Port Union in the Municipality of Trinity Bay North. I am very concerned about the school boards recommendation to consider closing Catalina Elementary in June of 2013. According to the Eastern Districts School Boards website and I quote “.... The Board recognized the following planning considerations as factors contributing to its ability to offer quality student programming: • Student Enrolment: Student enrolment trends have a significant impact on a school’s ability to offer quality programs due to a corresponding relationship to course offerings, teacher allocations and support staff assistance. • Grade Level Configurations: Various grade level configurations can optimize program offering and availability of resources for students. • Facilities: The age and condition of buildings, the potential for expansion, enrolment capacity, availability of regular and specialty instructional spaces and accessibility are critical issues to educational delivery. • Transportation: Many transportation factors must be considered including the distance and travel time, road conditions and Government regulations on student bussing. Each of these factors was considered within the context of the Board’s primary focus - student program availability - as part of the Board’s Multi-Year Plan for school reorganization and alignment. The Board recognizes that many of the recommendations in this plan will require the Government’s support for financing school construction, extensions and renovations............” Let us have a look at this criteria as it relates to Catalina Elementary : Student Enrollment : Catalina Elementary has held its own over the past few years hovering around 150 students. Far more than most schools not chosen for reorganization and alignment in Eastern Newfoundland. In fact, the enrollment #’s are even much higher than School Board predictions of a few years ago and all indications are enrollment will increase over the next few years with additional children reaching school age. Grade Level Configurations : The board says this is meant to optimize program offering and the availability of resources for students ?...Catalina Elementary students have already reached this pinnacle of academic success as evident in the Provincial CRT results. In most categories surpassing the provincial average by 15 to 20 percent ! Very impressive. In my opinion, its difficult to improve on these academic successes. Facilities : This is a no brainer. Catalina Elementary is a relatively new school in terms of usage, only 23 years old I have been told. Catalina Elementary is considered a crown jewel as far as schools are concerned. They have first class instruction, the envy of most schools its size, envied student teacher ratio and unmatched community involvement/support. A modern building with the latest technology, smart boards in every classroom, a music room, multi-purpose room, science lab, a state of the art air vac system ( no mold issues to be concerned about ) ensuring the best possible air quality for students & staff. Just 2 years ago a brand new roof installed and 3 years ago a brand new gym floor. Board officials must have been confident then the future viability of Catalina Elementary before those financial commitments were passed at the board level. Students have access to microwaves in every classroom plus extra ones in the hallways and upstairs. Warm and nutritious lunches provided by dedicated community volunteers every day of the week. A fenced playground, soccer pitch and a basketball/hockey court all meant to ensure the students receive a well rounded education academically, mentally and socially....a priority of the Department of Education, the local board, parents and teachers. Transportation : Not sure how the School Board can even logically see this as an incentive to relocate students 25 kms away in Bonavista. Gasoline prices are high and never expected to revert to the prices of years gone by. Distance and Travel time currently all fall within 20 minutes to ½ hour from pick up to drop off for students at Catalina Elementary. Busses travel on municipal roads where posted limits are from 30 to 50 kms per hour. No travel is currently required over Route 230 where posted speed limits are 80 km’s per hour. Sections of Route 230, however, between Trinity Bay North and Bonavista ,should relocation occur, are treacherous and dangerous to the safety of students during the winter months, in particular 4 and 5 year olds with no seat belts available on these busses. Everyday I drive by Catalina Elementary I see students walking to school, travelling to the school on bikes, skateboards, scooters etc.....this is so refreshing mentally for them to have this option. If they were to travel to Bonavista they would have to get up at least an ½ hour to 45 minutes more than they do currently.....leave their homes in the dark and travel back home in the dark for 7 of the 10 months they would be in class. I don’t see how this would be a ‘transportation positive’ for students. And of course not being able to partake in any after school activities since the busses will be waiting right after classes to take them home. And what about our challenging needs students. The true heart and soul of our community schools. Students and their teachers who need to know that parents, grandparents and car givers are just a few moments away if needed, which can be quite often. It’s not easy for some parents to just jump aboard a car, if they have one that is, and drive 25 kms to be with their child. Or hire a taxi ? Will this be a legitimate expense for families depending on income support ? Will this force some of our challenging needs students to simply stay home ? Ms. Dunderdale I implore you to personally get involved in this process at this time, just like former Premier Danny Williams did in June of 2005 when the Nova Central School Districts Board proposed the closure of Leo Burke Academy in Bishop’s Falls in favour of bussing students to Grand Falls Windsor. The boards decision was eventually reversed with Premier Williams saying, “ This school is viable and it should stay here.......based on the numbers that are there - that school stays, and that school is viable”..... The Education Minister at that time Tom Hedderson said “ We respect the rights of the boards to make decisions, this must be balanced with the fact that, at the end of the day, this government was elected to be accountable to the people of the province and to represent their best interest”.....Our town, Trinity Bay North, contributed so much to the economy of the region and province for so many years through the FPI/OCI plant in Port Union employing 12 - 1500 persons, and asked for nothing in return. We have been hit so hard over the past few years. We lost our bank, 30 + small businesses, our fish plant and our seal plant most recently. We may now lose our school, the centerpiece of our community. If we are ever to turn it around here economically we need Catalina Elementary to stay to offer new families thinking of coming to Trinity Bay North a reason to settle here. And perhaps someday soon we will get back to the days we long for again. We are trying ! The children of Trinity Bay North need you in their corner to look after their educational needs and they need you to show the compassion your government has shown in the past for our youth and our rural communities. Please Premier Dunderdale understand our plight and help us ! Thank You, Fred Russell Trinity Bay North