Department officials told the parents of the Mobile region in June that the school extension project was delayed, that its budget would be over the initial estimate, no design plan had been completed and an interim plan for students would need to be established based on the delay.
Based on the above information, in July, the Concerned Parent Group requested an opportunity to meet with the minister and the department about the status of the project. As of late September, they have not heard back.
On July 12, I wrote the minister of Education and copied the minister of Transportation and Works, advising, “….we were told that the timelines for completion have now been delayed. Can we please have the timelines updated and any contingency plan to accommodate lack of space during the apparent now-delayed build?”
As of the date of this letter I have received no response.
Multiple issues have arisen with this project of which Minister Crocker appears to be unaware. These include concerns about water quality and meeting water flow rates for the extension, concerns related to adjacency to the cemetery and possible unearthing of remains as expressed by the local cemetery committee, septic capacity and septic field extension availability on the current footprint, concerns over traffic density and removal of parking and the safety of students during construction and after completion, and, finally, safety exits during construction. The Concerned Parent Group has asked for discussion and clarity on all of these issues. Still nothing has been resolved.
Education Minister Kirby appears as ill-informed as the Transportation and Works minister. Minister Kirby suggested on a local open-line show that a duly elected board trustee for the region gave inaccurate information about the project — in particular, information on students accessing drinking water — and suggested this volunteer and parent was “fear mongering.” Really? The minister of Education attacking an elected board volunteer’s credibility on the public airways?
The Education minister of our province has since refused to apologize for his attack, and the premier — by his silence and inaction — appears to believe it is fitting action for a minister of the Crown to publicly attack a school trustee for representing her region. But then again, the same minister, in a March meeting, remarked to parents: why would growth continue up the Shore, or anybody want to live up the Shore, as people will all want to move to Galway.
Why has the premier not asked the minister of Education to resign or remove him for such commentary? This is the same Education minister I believe the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association asked the premier to remove because of his approach. So much for appointing ministers who are capable of working collaboratively with community stakeholders!
We know, as well, that the elected board trustees of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District have never supported or recommended the extension to Mobile Central High School. In recent weeks other board trustees have publicly said that this is not the recommended choice and they continue to ask for a new school for the region. It’s the wrong solution to an urgent problem that seems only supported by the current minster of Education.
The English School District brought forward an infrastructure priority list for next year’s budget which includes a new middle school for the Mobile/Witless Bay school system — a priority the Liberals continue to ignore.
In the past few weeks, elected trustees of the board have spoken out against the extension project and stated clearly that their choice is a new school. So much for listening to the recommendations of elected board trustees.
And now, we have supposed clarity from the Transportation and Works minister on delays to the extension.
Why won’t the ministers sit down with the parents in the region, listen to them, and move forward with the new school that was agreed to and approved in 2014 as the best way to accommodate the region’s growing number of children in the educational system?
Keith Hutchings, MHA