Parents protest school closures in P.E.I.


Published on January 16, 2017

Protesters gather outside the P.E.I. Convention Centre Monday night to voice their displeasure over proposed school closures.

©MITCH MACDONALD/TC MEDIA

There was a chilly reception waiting for premier Wade MacLauchlan outside the P.E.I. Convention Centre last night.

A group of about 50 parents and students against the proposed school closures in P.E.I. rallied outside the centre, where premier Wade MacLauchlan delivered his State of the Province address.

The group, consisting mainly of parents from Belfast Consolidated, Georgetown Elementary and St. Jean Elementary, waited in chilly temperatures for over an hour holding protest signs and at times breaking into chants of “save our schools.”

Marcella Ryan president of Belfast Home and School Association, said the group had a message for MacLauchlan.

“Think about the impact these recommendations are making. Not only on the schools, schoolchildren and parents, but also on the communities.”

Although the group had hoped to confront MacLauchlan when he arrived at the centre, protesters believed the premier either arrived earlier than expected or entered through a side door.

Ryan said she felt the protest went well despite MacLauchlan not addressing the group, especially considering the weather and that it was put together in less than 24 hours.

 “It’s really windy and cold but everyone out here was positive,” she said. “I’m sure that he’ll get the message that we were out and concerned about education. I hope he hears our voices out in the cold.”

Last week, the Public Schools Branch recommended the three schools, as well as St. Louis elementary and Bloomfield, close by the end of this school year.

Parent Hannah Terpstra and her daughter Hazel, who was supposed to start school in Belfast this fall, were two of the protesters.

With two other children younger than Hazel, Terpstra said she was fighting for her kids’ futures.

 “Bigger is not always better for schools,” she said.

The proposed closures have been seen by some parents as an attack on rural P.E.I.

“I think the data is wrong for just how vibrant Belfast is,” said Terpstra. “There are a lot of young families like us who are in the community now and I don’t think they’re really taking that into consideration.”

The evening also saw a meeting between the Georgetown Home and School Association and town council to discuss future plans on fighting the proposed closure.

That school was previously on the chopping block to close in 2009, although it ultimately stayed open.

Some of the parents on Monday were holding placards that were originally made for rallies in 2009.

Georgetown parent Mark Gotell said rural schools are an important part of developing rural P.E.I.

“How do we expect to build our communities when we don’t have a school? Young families aren’t going to move into an area where there is no school,” said Gotell. “We’re looking at it as a whole community. The school has been there for years and we want it to continue.”