Parents gathered at East Wiltshire Intermediate school Tuesday night to hear recommendations in the Public Schools Branch school change report. The report recommended closing five P.E.I. schools.
©Dave Stewart/TC Media
CORNWALL, P.E.I. — Tears filled the eyes of many parents Tuesday night as word came that five P.E.I. schools have been recommended for closure by this fall.
They include Georgetown elementary, Belfast Consolidated, St. Louis Elementary, Bloomfield and St. Jean Elementary in Charlottetown.
The Public Schools Branch released its school change report during its monthy meeting Tuesday at East Wiltshire Intermediate School in Cornwall in front of close to 200 people who gathered to hear the news.
“I don’t know what to say,’’ Tammy Davies, a parent of a Belfast student, said before she was overcome with emotion and unable to continue.
Marcella Ryan, president of the Belfast Home and School Association, was also emotional in an interview with The Guardian.
“I am surprised. I am brokenhearted. We’re just trying to wrap our heads around it,’’ Ryan said, her eyes red. “It is a recommendation, and we hope that we’re certainly going to look at things from every angle. We are brokenhearted.’’
The report released Tuesday night is online at www.princeedwardisland/betterlearningforall. Feedback can be provided there.
No final decisions have been made yet. There will be public meetings held in each of the six affected family of school areas in February. The public has 60 days to provide feedback.
At the end of the 60 days of public feedback, the three-member board of directors of the Public Schools Branch will come up with a final set of recommendations.
In terms of the schools recommended for closure, that goes to cabinet for a final decision.
Ryan said closing the five schools would be devastating to the communities.
“It’s detrimental to the community. The school is the heart of the community and it’s something that people come to (the community) for so it’s going to be hard.’’
Mallory Peters, president of the Georgetown Home and School Federation, said this is a major blow to rural P.E.I.
“Look at all the schools they have slated to close tonight. A majority of them are rural, so it kind of feels like we’re being penalized for being in a rural setting instead of an urban setting,’’ Peters said.
“It feels like they are closing our schools to save money to make theirs better. It’s not really fair to our children’s education when it comes down to bricks and mortar instead of the actual quality of the education. Kids receive (a) really good education in small rural schools and that’s a known fact.’’
Peters also questions why government might close rural schools when an annual event such as the Georgetown Conference is all about building and improving on rural P.E.I.
“The chair of that (conference) was our premier, so it’s a little hypocritical if you go down and close these schools in rural places if this is what the mandate is for the Georgetown conference.’’
One parent of an affected school stated bluntly, “I plan on camping on the front lawn of the premier’s house’’.
Another Georgetown parent said he is flabbergasted by the recommendations.
The parent said it is his understanding that a contractor has been hired to repair the water and sewer system at Georgetown elementary. Why would this work be done if the plan is to close the school, he wondered.
“The cart is before the horse here,’’ the man said. “It’s very disheartening.’’
The Guardian will have much more on the recommendations on its website, www.theguardian.pe.ca, Wednesday and in Thursday’s newspaper.
Public School Branch invites Islanders to comment on the draft recommendations:
Online feedback can be provided at www.princeedwardisland.ca/betterlearningforall.
Public meetings will be held as follows:
• Charlottetown Rural and Colonel Gray families of schools, Feb. 1, 7 p.m., Colonel Gray gym
• Kinkora family, Feb. 2, 7 p.m., Kinkora Regional School gym
• Montague family, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., Montague Regional High School
• Morell family, Feb. 8, 7 p.m., Morell Regional High School gym
• Westisle family, Feb. 9, 7 p.m., Westisle Composite High School gym