For the third time in just over a decade, the case for Swift Current Academy was made.
Over 100 supporters crowded into the newly refurbished gymnasium at the school to hear from 11 presenters last Tuesday evening as part of a session of public hearings.
Each 10-minute presentation was aimed at the Eastern School Disctrict's board of trustees, who have recommended the school close in June 2013 and students be bused to schools in Clarenville, nearly 50 kilometers away.
"I can't believe that we are again fighting to keep our school open, and fight we will," began Dianne Barrett, the first presenter of the evening.
"The only outcome we will accept is the same one as last time."
Barrett was referring to the ESD's ruling in 2001 that Swift Current Academy function as a "needs to exist" school.
However, in light of that ruling, the board suggested changing the school's structure in 2006 - making it a K-6 school instead of a K-12 and busing the students to Tricentia Academy in Arnold's Cove.
Again, after the public hearings, the board decided to reinstate the school's "needs to exist" status.
Last Tuesday night, only weeks after the release of the ESD's most recent report, supporters made a point to say the current recommendation is more ludicrous than prior attempts to close their school.
Barrett, whose son attends the school and takes math courses beyond his own grade level, asked if the board had considered putting their own children on a bus for 90 minutes, twice each day.
"Of course you wouldn't," she added.
The distance the buses would be traveling, compounded by the effects the rides would have on younger students, was the main point of the arguments against the board's recommendation.
Presenters repeatedly asked the board if they had thought of the potential consequences.
"There are no shoulders (of the road) for vehicles to pull over," said Elaine Marshall, another parent representative.
"What would happen if a bus had to pull over on the shoulder and there were vehicles coming both ways? Now imagine your child is on that bus. Who would be held liable because of your decision to close our school? A child's life cannot be replaced."
Added to the possible dangers with the roads was the potential for what could happen within the bus, given the duration of the rides and the absence of washroom facilities and seat belts on school buses.
"What happens when a child pees their pants? What happens if a child is sick? There will be seven kindergarten students starting school next year; for many of those children, school will be a nightmare. They are going to be exhausted, contrary and very difficult to deal with from the time they rise," said Marshall.
Swift Current Academy students Jolene Butt, Grade 6, and Tiffany Price, Grade 12, gave presentations to elucidate on how the decision may affect them.
Butt spoke about how she learned about moose in school and how they populate the roads of the province, including the road to school in Clarenville.
"They are majestic until they are coming through your window," she said.
Price asked the board if they thought about what 90 minute bus rides would do to a student's mental state once they did arrive at school.
She also said the short rides to her current school make the day a more enjoyable experience.
"The amount of time it takes to travel to the school is very beneficial, as it's a short run and you are very well rested for the day ahead."
Roger Davis' presentation looked at the sunrise/sunset times for the school year and showed how between Oct. 10 and Mar. 10, students would be boarding the bus in the dark.
He also showed that from Oct. 1 to Jan.10, they would be getting off the bus in the dark.
"Would you expose children to those kind of situations?" he asked.
"Practically, this school has to remain open."
Supporters even found an ally in academia, as Dr. Denis Mulcahy of Memorial University's Faculty of Education, was on hand to give a presentation that looked at the importance of rural schools (see his letter on A7).
He said in all the years pedagogical theory has supposed 'the larger the school, the better the opportunity,' never has any research proven that.
"Shouldn't there be a mountain of data? Where is the evidence? Where is the beef? Over the years our leaders have made many false claims."
Mulcahy added the line of thinking employed by the bureaucrats who make these decisions seems to equate students with products of an industry.
"Children are not fish," he said to a room full of chuckles.
His argument purported that those in urban buildings may not be entirely in tune with the realities of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Perhaps the clearest disregard for the well-being of rural children is the increased busing. Busing is a serious issue and the decision to close schools and bus children should not be taken lightly.
"The key issue is time, not distance. How much of the children's time will be taken? Precious time that will be wasted. How do we as responsible adults get away with this?"
Perhaps the sharpest rebuke of the night came when Marie Butt, another parent representative, asked the board why two schools in education minister Clyde Jackman's riding, each with low enrollments, are not recommended for closure.
"Is that because they are in the education minister's riding?"
At the outset of the meeting, ESD chairperson Milton Peach emphasized, "No final decisions have been made to date."
The board is expected to lay out its final decision at its Dec. 13 meeting.