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  • Dwain Abbott
    October 24, 2012 - 09:21

    What kid needs to travel 25 kms to get an education when there is a good school there now it is great to have a school in the community i know i loved going to school in catalina when i was a child i bet i am not the only one with this complaint.

  • Fred Russell - Port Union
    October 24, 2012 - 08:18

    My letter to Premier Dunderdale, Minister Clyde Jackman, Chairperson Milton Peach & ESDNL Trustees: 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 709.469.2505

    • Concerned Parent
      October 25, 2012 - 00:17

      Very well written, Fred. Keeping on track with what you are requesting from DOE, unlike some other posts I've read. Good luck to the parents of Catalina Elementary, and may I add should the decision be made to close your school, Matthew Elementary has just as much to offer your children as the one they are currently attending. Best of luck!