Eastern School District board’s multi-year plan suggests closing school
Eastern School District chairman Milton Peach motions to the crowd of nearly 200 supporters of Catalina Elementary on Monday night at Discovery Collegiate in Bonavista. The crowd was there to denounce the district’s recommendation that Catalina Elementary close in June, 2013. — Photo by Ross Mair/The Packet
Opponents of a recommendation made by Eastern School District’s Board of Trustees to close Catalina Elementary got the chance to voice their displeasure directly to the board at a public hearing held Monday evening in Bonavista.
“I’m sure it can be reversed, I think, as long as we keep fighting and we keep getting the facts out there about how good our school is,” said Roger Cullimore, one of the parents who attended Monday’s meeting. “We were told (Monday) that nothing has been decided, and we’re going to take them for their word on that.”
The three-hour meeting was held at Discovery Collegiate, the school that would accept students from grades 7-8 if the K-8 school in Catalina were to close after the current school year. Students in grades K-6 would attend Matthew Elementary in Bonavista.
Approximately 200 people attended the meeting, with 17 individuals making presentations. Along with Eastern School District board members, acting district CEO and director of education Bruce Vey and Bonavista South MHA Glenn Little also attended.
“I guess people were firm in what they were saying,” said Cullimore, who spoke with The Telegram the day after the meeting. “We want our school kept open, and that was the tone for the night. We have facts that state unequivocally that our school should stay open.”
Parents from the school have been hoping to learn more about the specific reasons why the board has recommended closing the school, but Monday’s hearing shed no light on the matter.
“That was brought forward to them,” said Cullimore with regards to the board’s reasons for the recommendation. “We don’t know why, and no one answered. We have a representative from this area, Anne Marie Furlong, and there’s been e-mail upon e-mail and phone calls upon phone call. She will not respond to our questions.”
As has been said by others, Cullimore said not knowing the reasons behind the recommendation makes it harder for parents to fight back.
While he said it is widely known enrollment is declining at rural schools in the province, Cullimore said there are schools with fewer students than Catalina Elementary in the area that are slated to remain open.
He added Eastern School District projections for enrollment at the school do not fall in line with figures that parents have been able to come up with.
“Our numbers are higher than what they’re saying,” he said.
More public hearings are scheduled through the remainder of this month. Notices of motion for any potential school closures in the zones that include Catalina Elementary are set to be tabled at a public board meeting scheduled for Nov. 7 at Riverside Elementary School in Shoal Harbour.
Cullimore said the Eastern School District can expect to hear from Catalina Elementary parents at that meeting.
A vote that will decide the ultimate fate of the five schools recommended for closure in the district will be held Dec. 13 at the Avalon West School Board office in Spaniard’s Bay.