Hundreds of supporters form human chain around Georgetown Elementary


Published on January 29, 2017

Hundreds of individuals link hands and form a human chain around Georgetown Elementary on Sunday as a way to send a message to the province, which has slated the school as one of five that could close by the end of this year.

©RANDY CHIASSON/SUBMITTED PHOTO

GEORGETOWN - Supporters of rural schools banded together, quite literally, to send a powerful visual to the province Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of Islanders gathered at Georgetown Elementary to link arms and create a circle around the school to symbolize their unity in the fight to keep rural schools open.

The rally also saw members of the four other P.E.I. schools slated to close this year, Belfast Consolidated, St. Louis Elementary, Bloomfield and St. Jean Elementary in Charlottetown.

It was an emotional day for many of the attendees, who held yellow ribbons that could be seen from a drone and plane taking pictures overhead.

“We’re just overwhelmed with the response,” said Melvin Ford, a home and school member and event organizer. “We’re such a small community, but they’ve come out in abundance from all across P.E.I. and that has really touched us.”

Former Georgetown Elementary student Zoe Gotell, from right, her friend Tamara Kromko and current Grade 2 student Nicole Stevens were just a few of the faces who rallied on Sunday to save the school from closure.

©MITCH MACDONALD/TC MEDIA

Georgetown student Rayo Cormier, from right, and friend Logan Chandler were two of hundreds who helped create a human chain around Georgetown Elementary Sunday.
MITCH MACDONALD/TC MEDIA

Mallory Peters, president of Georgetown Home and School Association, said organizers were nervous they might not get the same size crowd as they did during an event held in 2009 when the school was previously slated for closure.

However, organizers said they counted close to 600 individuals on Sunday, almost doubling the previous event.

“It means a lot to us,” said Peters, who noted the event wasn’t just about Georgetown, but all rural schools in P.E.I. “(We’re going to) keep on pushing forward and supporting everybody, not just our own school.”

Hundreds of individuals link hands and form a human chain around Georgetown Elementary on Sunday as a way to send a message to the province, which has slated the school as one of five that could close by the end of this year.

©RANDY CHIASSON/SUBMITTED PHOTO

Georgetown teacher, Therese Mair, said many felt the 2009 event sent a powerful message to government on the importance of keeping the school open.

“I’m hoping this will give the same kind of message,” said Mair, who also attended the school as a kid.

No official decisions on school closures have been made yet, with the school review process ending in early March.

The event also saw a number of politicians from Georgetown-St. Peters MLA Steven Myers and Green Party MLA Peter Bevan-Baker to Charlottetown Coun. Mitchell Tweel, provincial NDP leader Mike Redmond and opposition MLAs Sidney MacEwen and Matthew MacKay.

Ford said that was an outrage that no members of the provincial government were at the event.

“We’re seeing every face here today but members of the Liberal party. That’s what’s disappointing,” said Ford. “The ones we need to speak the loudest too are not here.”

Georgetown Mayor Lewis Lavandier said he was blown away by the size of the crowd.

He said the event was an example of people standing together and sending a message that “enough is enough.”

“We have to stick together, we’re stronger together,” Lavandier told the crowd. “Closing Island schools is not the way to go. When you do that, you take one of the building blocks out of the community.”

Peters said the group’s next moves will be presenting to the Public Schools Branch on Feb. 7 and attending a rally in Kinkora on Feb. 2.

“Its not just our school that’s going to be affected because this process can happen again at any time. Just because you may be safe this time around doesn’t mean you’ll be safe next time,” said Peters. “Until we all have the same resources in all of our schools and there’s a moratorium on closing these schools, nobody is safe.”

Hundreds of individuals link hands and form a human chain around Georgetown Elementary on Sunday as a way to send a message to the province, which has slated the school as one of five that could close by the end of this year.