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Proposed School Closures Not in Children's Best Interests; Opposition Questions Review Process
PC Opposition education critic Craig Pardy and his colleagues are expressing concern over a proposal by the Newfoundland and Labrador English ‎School District to close schools around the province.
Monday, December 9, 2019

Office of the Official Opposition
For Immediate Release

St. John’s, NL (December 9, 2019) – PC Opposition education critic Craig Pardy and his colleagues are expressing concern over a proposal by the Newfoundland and Labrador English ‎School District to close schools around the province. The Board gave notice of these closures on December 7, saying a final decision may be made in March, prior to which there would be public meetings in the affected communities as part of the system review process.

Opposition MHAs Tony Wakeham, Jeff Dwyer and Lloyd Parrott are concerned about impacts on the communities, families and children in their districts.

Weren’t All School System Reviews Supposed to be Postponed?

Pardy wants to know why the system reviews are happening at all. “The Board passed a resolution in June 2018 to postpone any further school review processes pending the department’s review of the Schools Act, which started well over a year ago. Why are these reviews even proceeding? Why is the government causing anxiety and fear in these communities, when the process is flawed and may ultimately be rejected?”

Didn’t the Minister Deny This Was Happening Before the House Closed?

Stephenville – Port au Port MHA Tony Wakeham said, “This shocking pre-Christmas ‎announcement just days after the House of Assembly adjourned is not what the Education Minister left parents to expect when he denied school closures were on the table.”

Questioned in the House on November 21 about possible school closures, Education Minister Brian Warr said: "Nobody here is closing schools."

Pardy said, “Should the Education Minister not be in the loop regarding these potential school closures and the rationales? Is the provincial government driving these potential closures?”

Why Isn’t the Focus on the Best Interests of Students?

Pardy said, “We must always be cognizant of optimizing programming for our children with the goal of delivering the best opportunities possible, but the current school review process must be re-evaluated. It is the government, through the school district, that ought to be out in front providing the myriad of options for stakeholders in these regions that will lead to improvements.”

Pardy said, “Let’s hear up front the effects for the students involved, citing the logistics, such as distances of travel; how it affects the length of their school day; how the students’ programming will be enhanced through the proposals. Can virtual connectivity further aid in the delivery of education in rural areas? Will travelling in excess of 30 kilometres on the Trans-Canada Highway to school lead to increased student engagement? Will there be opportunities for the students to engage in after-school activities?”

Pardy said, “I call upon the Education Minister to re-evaluate the current school review process. Government should do its homework and present all the schooling options available to the parents affected and fully engage parents on ‘each and every one of these options’. Parents will always decide on the option that is best for their children! The perception in the public’s eye is that the writing is on the wall, with only one option presented. Not good enough!”

Contacts:
Bradley Russell, Director of Policy and Research
(p) 1.709.729.3668
BradleyRussell@gov.nl.ca

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Backgrounder

According to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD), reviews will be conducted of the following school systems: Stephenville High School and Piccadilly Central High School Systems; Dorset Collegiate School System; Glovertown Academy School System; Phoenix Academy and Gill Memorial Academy School Systems; and Marystown Central High School System.

Tony Wakeham (MHA for Stephenville – Port au Port) said, “I am not happy with the changes being proposed and the impact on families and children in the District of Stephenville-Port au Port. It appears that the process is flawed in that recommendations to close schools are made before a full review and analysis are completed and consultation occurs with the school communities. This is not good enough.”

Lloyd Parrott (MHA for Terra Nova) said, “Proposed cuts affecting students and schools in the District of Terra Nova have parents, children and teachers upset. Instead of focusing on their studies, they are rallying for the school board to reconsider decisions that are not in their best interests. They're worried the proposed changes may compromise their education and their future."

Jeff Dwyer (MHA for Placentia West – Bellevue) said, “Communities on the Burin Peninsula are also getting the bad news about proposed school closures‎ that will seriously impact their children's lives and education. They are worried the decisions will be made by officials far removed from their communities who lack a good understanding of the ‎impact their choices will have on students and their quality of education."

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