I am a parent of two boys who currently attend Newtown Elementary and I have a third son who will enter the school system in the fall of 2015. I am writing you today
in relation to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District’s decision of April 12 to dismantle two of Mount Pearl’s elementary schools (Newtown and St. Peter’s) and transform them into a K-3 and 4-6 school system.
In short, the board completely and utterly ignored the overwhelming feedback that they received from the parents, guardians and teachers who advised them that splitting the schools to a K-3 and 4-6 system was not in the best interest of students and families, and that there was a better solution by altering catchment zones to keep both schools as a K-6 system.
The consultation process from the very beginning was flawed and one that was not developed with the intent of securing the best possible option, but instead
was designed to push through a pre-
Parents were presented with only two official options to vote on from the board. For Newtown and St. Peter’s families, both options were the exact same. The online feedback system was not designed to seek support for other available options and catchment re-alignment was discouraged by the board, against the wishes of parents from both schools.
At a high level, some of the arguments for keeping both schools as a K-6 model are:
‰ Reducing school transitions — Studies link transition years to greater academic challenges, social challenges and diminished sense of belonging, and psychological struggles. These challenges are often magnified for our students with special needs. The board’s decision will now mean that students will face an increase of school transitions, not a reduction.
‰ The loss of leadership and mentoring opportunities — These opportunities build character, leadership development, evoke empathy and instil a sense of responsibility in the older children for younger children. Our younger children benefit from these programs and also from the ability to mimic and mirror positive attributes from our older children and gain a sense of place and belonging when the older children take an interest in them.
‰ Traffic safety concerns — The traffic congestion is already noted as a challenge for current families at St. Peter’s. As you increase the number of younger children without the support of older children, more families will be dropping children off.
‰ Risk of increased bullying — my concern for the Grade 4s at Newtown who would go from middle of the pack regarding age to the youngest in a Grade 4-6 system. I fear for the increased potential for bullying and, these students being a target as opposed to being a part of the big-kid group in the school under a K-6 configuration.
These are but a few of the many arguments that parents put forward to the board and in the end, the board ignored the overwhelming feedback received and pushed on with a solution that only 20 per cent of people supported. A better solution was proposed regarding rezoning the catchment areas.
The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has instituted a Safe and Caring Schools Policy.
Point 2.6 of that policy reads “The positive nature of relationships within the school community, and the consistent, inclusive and nurturing nature of the school permit students to build healthy relationships, to create a strong and supportive social network, to develop emotional well-being and to achieve academically to the best of their ability.”
It is difficult to imagine that the spirit of Safe and Caring Schools policy is being considered in this decision.
On behalf of the families who voted against this change, I urge Education Minister Clyde Jackman to please intervene for all of our children and respect the wishes of the majority of parents and guardians who know our children best and know what environment they need to thrive in.
We are not ignoring or refuting that change needs to happen, just that it needs to happen in the most informed, positive way possible.