Flawed documents deciding school’s fate: parents

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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School board says all information will be considered in closure decisions

As with Whitbourne Elementary, Epiphany Elementary is facing closure in a decision to be handed down by the Eastern School District on July 10. — Submitted photo courtesy of Pauline Welsh

Along with parents of kids at Whitbourne Elementary, parents of students attending Epiphany Elementary in Heart’s Delight-Islington do not know what school their kids will attend next year.

Some parents say the school board doesn’t have the information it needs to make the decision on where the kids will go, even though the decision is to be handed down by the Eastern School District July 10.

The board is set to decide, once and for all, whether or not to close both Whitbourne and Epiphany elementaries — sending students there to other K-6 schools in the Crescent Collegiate feeder system.

Five elementary schools now feed into the regional high school in Blaketown. That number will be reduced to three, if the closures go ahead.

“They’re making a decision based on errors,” said a concerned Marion Simms, a member of the Epiphany Elementary school council. Her son is heading into Grade 6 and she has two other children already through the K-6 levels.

She said the planning document the board has been using in its discussions on the schools to date is filled with errors.

A typo, acknowledged by the board, places her son’s school in the wrong community.

The document also incorrectly states the bus route, the number of classrooms and the school’s student capacity, she said.

She said much of the basis for the proposed closures of the schools is not stated in the board’s “Multi-year plan: 2011-14, detailed information” document. She pointed to the final public hearing on the proposed closure of Epiphany, held last week. It was only after that hearing, she said, a staff member with the board said the library would not be large enough to accept students from Acreman Elementary in Green’s Harbour, as opposed to Acreman’s building being large enough to accept students from Epiphany Elementary.

“That could have been described in the (public) document,” she said, explaining parents have been unable to respond to the point.

“With this document tainted and so flawed we respectfully ask that you take a hard look at your options and choose to walk away,” Epiphany Elementary school council chair Stanley Reid said in a written submission to the school board.

Reid called for an independent study of the options for the feeder system before any final vote on school closures.

The board first announced plans for amalgamations in the feeder system at the end of 2012.

From now on, it was said, students at Whitbourne would be bused about 19 kilometres to Woodland Elementary in Dildo and students at Epiphany would be taken about 17 kilometres to Acreman Elementary in Green’s Harbour.

A pin was put in those plans in mid-May, after public outcry and protests from parents at Whitbourne Elementary.

It was argued the exact reasons for the school’s closure were never clearly laid out for the public and the case was on its way to being settled in the courts, when the school board took a step back.

The Eastern School District published a more detailed reasoning for the proposed closures and offered to re-start the decision-making process with a fresh round of public hearings.

On Tuesday, Eastern School Disrict CEO Milton Peach says the board’s numbers are typically disputed in the case of a proposed school closure.

“We have all of the confidence, that is possible to (have) in that information, because any time you put out numbers they will be challenged,” he said.

“We are going through this process because we thought

we should offer the parents the opportunity to look at the numbers, look at the information we were using.”

Peach said the school board will be making its final decisions on all of the information presented — information from the parents and school councils, as well as the board’s existing data.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Epiphany Elementary school council

Geographic location: Blaketown, Dildo

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Recent comments

  • Patti
    June 28, 2013 - 08:26

    If the Board is truly using the statistical date provided to them, they need to note two things: the existing data is not accurate and this has been proven not only with our school, but in the new elementary school in Carbonear. It has already been reported that they miscalculated the projections involving this school, stating that 'they didn't anticipate the large growth in the that area'. Isn't that what is happening in Whitbourne? The second consideration is that Whitbourne has already provided a signed document showing a 36% error in numbers by the Board regarding Whitbourne's projections, proven growth in the next five years alone.

  • karen osmond
    June 27, 2013 - 19:56

    A decision as serious as closing a towns school should not be made based on documents that have not been updated since 2004. In Whitbourne's last meeting with the board we proved the information in these documents was false. The board seemed to be listening but we'll see, anyone who attended that last meeting will be shocked if they still decide to close Whitbourne Elementary after the correct information was given to the board.

    • Marion Simms
      June 28, 2013 - 10:30

      The fact that we as two school communities have exposed major errors in the document being used to close our schools should remove us from the table and an independent study be done to bring the facts to the table. There is a responsibility given to these Trustees and I would hope that making a major decision would be based on facts not information that is false. This needs to be tossed out and the facts be in place then a decision would be appropriate. July 10th will show us if our trust is misplaced in our elected Trustees.