Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
March 26, 2001
Parents determined to save their school
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — Parents from St. Andrew School have two weeks to prepare for the challenge of their lives.
On April 4, they will meet with Edmonton Catholic school trustees and administration to try and convince them the school should stay open.
"We will need quite a miracle," concedes Kim Cordeiro, St. Andrew School council chair. "But we're not going to go down without fighting."
The board voted March 15 to begin a consultation process that will consider closing the school on 127th Street and 114th Avenue. The final vote will occur April 30.
Between now and then, Cordeiro says, the community will have to come together and develop viable options for keeping the school open, such as offering alternative programming.
Cordeiro says it's easy to feel the school is being sacrificed. "(The board) has to close schools in order to get funding."
The division's capital plan, submitted to government last week, lists four new schools as its top priorities: an elementary/junior high in Terwillegar/Riverbend, a new elementary in Pilot Sound/Lake District, replacement of Sacred Heart and St. Michael schools with a new facility on the current St. Michael site, and a junior high in the Meadows.
To receive funding for new construction, the division's overall utilization rate must be at 85 per cent.
Director of Facilities Services Garnet McKee said at the March 15 meeting that if recommendations passed by the board were implemented, including the closure of St. Andrew, Edmonton Catholic's utilization rate would be about 83 per cent.
Trustees and administration were confident that would be enough to secure funding.
"There is nothing in this capital plan that is not important," stated superintendent Dale Ripley. "It is our expectation that we would receive everything on here from the government."
News of a new inner city school was a surprise for parents from St. Michael, who came to the meeting expecting to hear their school would be closing. "The last two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster," admitted Fleur Roppo, chair of St. Michael's school council.
"On March 6 we were up for closure, so needless to say the last nine days have been spent calling people, getting the community to support us, getting parents involved and making sure all our voices were heard.
"Hearing the news tonight was like knowing someone up there is looking after us."
Roppo called the decision "the absolute best thing for that community." Over the next six weeks, St. Michael and Sacred Heart parents will undergo a consultation process similar to that at St. Andrew School. So will parents in Millwoods, who will discuss an earlier board recommendation to juggle students at a number of schools to ease overcrowding at Blessed Kateri School.
While she was pleased to see that a new school in the Meadows is part of the capital plan, parent Maria Mancini says she is concerned about moving students around in the meantime.
"I don't think busing is the way for little kids to go. We have a very good school going, and yes it's crowded, but they don't need that."
During the consultation process, parents will be making a case for keeping students at Blessed Kateri until the new junior high is built, Mancini said. Board chair Debbie Engel said she was "delighted that Edmonton Catholic Schools is looking at offering children at St. Andrew's a better education."
The board claims the school's low enrollment of 69 students and the extensive upgrading needed at the 55-year-old building are barriers to providing the best education for students.
But Cordeiro says she doesn't see the school as "dilapidated." And the low enrollment figures don't take into account the fact that a large part of the school is leased out to community groups.
Besides, Cordeiro says, the small class sizes are a drawing feature for parents.
"We're like a little family here — everyone knows the kids and everyone knows the parents and the teachers."
Part of the board's recommendation is that students be provided with free busing to St. Pius X School, about eight blocks north, as well as a full-day program for kindergarten students.
But Cordeiro says St. Pius X won't be the parents' only choice, especially when nearby Inglewood School already provides out-of-school care.
"I'm really torn right now between looking at a new school and a new experience, and really missing this school - the parents, the staff, the close ties with the parish and seniors' centre and the whole community.
"I think people in that community feel very strongly that everything is being taken away from them."
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