School district sticks to its guns, mostly

Still recommending Catalina Elementary close, concessions for Swift Current Academy

Ross Mair rmair@thepacket.ca
Published on November 8, 2012
(From left) Bradley Hicks, Nathan Lodge and Kyle Avery are three students of Catalina Elementary who were recently informed the Eastern School Board (background) plan to stick to its original proposal and have them attend school in Bonavista next school year. In the words of Avery, “It’s crazy.”
Ross Mair Photo

The Eastern School District (ESD) remains firm in their decision on Catalina Elementary, reiterating with a notice of motion during their annual general meeting on Wednesday night that the school should close by September 2013.

With regard to Swift Current Academy, the ESD issued a notice of motion the school remain a K-9 facility with students in grades 10-12 bussed to Clarenville High, bending slightly on their original proposal the school close entirely by September 2013.

Supporters of both schools will have one last opportunity to present a case for each, with a public meeting being held at Discovery Collegiate in Bonavista on Monday, Nov. 26 and another at Swift Current Academy the following night, Tuesday, Nov. 27. Both meetings will start at 6:30 PM.

"The closure of the school will be the last nail in the coffin of Trinity Bay North," said Daryl Johnson, town manager for the municipality, which includes Catalina Elementary. The town has recently lost two major employers and is currently working on an economic strategy to turn its fortunes around.

"I don't so much feel shock as disappointment," he said, clearly upset with the board's decision.

"There was some 30 submissions (at the last public consultation) and they went by the criteria, everything they had on there was picture perfect for Catalina. The enrollment is stabilizing and growing, the CRTC scores are well above the provincial average. I don't know what else you could do. If they said the reason was because they were learning in an old school and they weren't getting the enrollment numbers or a good education, you'd be able to swallow it."

Christine Lony recently moved from Alberta to the town because she wanted her 14-month-old to attend Catalina Elementary.

"My heart sank, because I honesty felt that they had heard us (at the public consultations).

"We picked up and moved here because of the wonderful school that was already there. We are not the only ones. There are so many reasons, but you're hard-pressed to find a school that is the exception (Catalina Elementary is). I mean, Pete Soucy said it was a model school and he wasn’t wrong," she said.

As soon as the notice of motion on Catalina was handed down, shouts, cries and even tears could be seen in the faces of the near 80 supporters who had driven to Riverside Elementary in Shoal Harbour from the communities of Trinity Bay North.

Supporters of Swift Current were slightly more optimistic, even thought they didn't get the results they were hoping for.

"It was a mixed reaction; we are keeping our K-9, so in that sense we got a small victory, but the fight is not over. Now we have to fight for our ten to 12's, Their lives are just as important," said Dianne Barrett, who has a son in Grade 10 at Swift Current Academy.

She feels that if the ESD follows through with this decision, her son's education and involvement with school will diminish.

"I think that it is going to affect his ability to learn. I think his marks are going to go down."

Asked if she thinks her son, who is on the school's student council, will get involved with such activities in Clarenville, Barrett is doubtful.

"No, because my son is involved with this because he grew up with these kids. He is not going to try to get involved in Clarenville."

Anyone who wishes to make a presentation at the next round of public consultations can do so through the ESD website at www.esdnl.ca.

For more coverage on this story, see next Thursday's edition of The Packet.