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Parents rally to save Whitbourne Elementary


It was deja vu for the parents of Whitbourne Elementary at a public consultation session put off by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) Monday evening.

Whitbourne Mayor Hilda Whelan presents to the NLESD board of trustees during a public consultation on the future of her town's school on April 4.

Just like in 2012, they were standing in front of the just under a dozen NLESD board of trustees. Just like then, they were fighting to save their school from closure. Whitbourne is one of five schools up for closure across the province.

Inside the gymnasium at Whitbourne Elementary, three dozen or so concerned parents and community officials showed their support for what many called “the heart of the community.”

For three hours, 21 speakers laid their concerns bare. They disputed the numbers provided by the school district and questioned what would happen if the shoe happened to be on the other foot for the trustees.

Would they be looking to close the school?

Parents challenged the board to find a better environment for their children. They pointed to the numerous after school activities including basketball, badminton, the long-running army cadet program and martial arts.

“It makes no logical sense why Whitbourne is up for closure,” said parent Shannon Byrne. “Weren’t we here two years ago? Don’t you know that the school is the heart of the community in one that is growing and stable?

“As parents, we should have been listened too. Yet, here we are back again. My child’s needs are being met in Whitbourne.”

The meeting had a different feeling then the one that took place at Crescent Collegiate in 2012.

The previous one ran higher on emotion. There were a larger number of outbursts in anger. That’s not to say these parents weren’t emotional. It was more subdued and measured.

When they spoke about the lengthy bus rides facing their children and the inclusive environment they’d be leaving, there were tears and tenseness in their voices.

“Having a five-year-old sitting on a bus for close to 75 minutes and then having them spend the entire day at school and then another 75-minute bus ride at the end … this will have a severe impact on that child,” said parent Rudy Mercer. “How is that beneficial to our children?”

For their part, the board of trustees listened inventively to the presentations and made notes where applicable.

“I thought the presentations were well-done,” said board chairman Milton Peach. “When you look at reviewing and because the motion is on the books for this school to close, emotions run pretty high. Nobody wants a school in their town that is closing.”

The next time the board of trustees will meet is April 16. That’s when they’ll vote on the future of Whitbourne Elementary.

 

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

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