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.