Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 16, 2001
'My children are so happy here'
Sacred Heart parents plead for school to be allowed to stay open
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Parents of students from Sacred Heart School dominated an Edmonton inner city meeting April 5 on the proposed closure of Catholic schools in the area.
They made it clear they love Sacred Heart and don't want the Edmonton Catholic School Division to shut it down.
The division wants to close Sacred Heart and St. Michael then build a new school on the St. Michael's site for the children of both schools. Sacred Heart students would be bused free to St. Michael's for the first three years.
Thuy Anguyen, who has two children at Sacred Heart, loves the school so much she stood before 200 people to plead with the board not to close it. She explained she had moved to Millwoods but last September she moved back to the inner city so her children could continue to attend Sacred Heart.
"They are so happy here," she said. "If you close it and my children are transferred to a bigger school they won't feel happy anymore."
Michelle Peter also loves Sacred Heart elementary — a lot. So much so she drives four of her five children from Millwoods to the inner city everyday so they can attend Sacred Heart.
Because of the school's small class sizes, teachers have more time to interact with parents and to give her children extra attention, she noted.
Peter said staff at Sacred Heart welcomes parents, invites them for coffee and when she and her children have been in need, the school has supported them.
She spoke about the time the principal brought her family groceries at Christmas and about the social worker who made sure her children had winter clothes.
Sacred Heart area community activist Kimo Trent asked district officials to keep both schools open and renovate St. Michael's. He also proposed moving students from St. Basil to Sacred Heart instead of to St. Alphonsus and St. Catherine.
"What we are risking (by closing Sacred Heart) is a loss of Catholic students to public schools," he said.
Low enrollment is no reason to close Sacred Heart, said community activist Deanna Shorten, arguing that in areas with a high proportion of poverty, like the inner city, small class sizes are needed.
Shorten pleaded with district officials "to work with the community and to pressure the government to put funding back into education."
The Edmonton Catholic School Division had originally planned to turn Sacred Heart into a "centre of excellence" for inner city children. It would have been a school as well a one-stop centre for adult education and social services.
But after intense lobbying from St. Michael's parents, who saw their school in danger of closing, the plan changed.
At the meeting, Superintendent Dale Ripley proposed closing both schools and building a new school for 225 children at the St. Michael site. That would depend on Alberta Infrastructure granting the $3.2 million needed to build the new school.
"However, it is important for all parents to know that decisions have not been made on the issue that is before us tonight," Ripley said. "We need to hear what your ideas and what your solutions are."
Parents urged the school board to postpone its decision until a review of long-term development in the area is conducted. They also asked trustees to keep both schools open, regardless of Alberta Infrastructure's requirement that 85 per cent of the classroom space be used before it will grant money for new schools.
MLA Brian Mason supported calls for keeping both schools open.
Busing students from Sacred Heart to the new St. Michael's is not a solution, Mason said, because if students miss the bus they would have to walk through dangerous areas. "Middle class ideas about busing don't seem to work here."
Linda Vaisanen has two children at St. Michael and is happy the board is considering building a new school there.
But Vaisanen said she doesn't want to see Sacred Heart close. If would be hard for Sacred Heart children to attend school across the LRT tracks even if they are bused, she said in an interview.
Catholic trustees will accept written submissions on the Sacred Heart/St. Michael proposal until April 30.
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