Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
May 7, 2001
Board votes to close St. Andrew's School
Other planned changes await provincial gov't approval
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
EDMONTON — For the first time in nine years, Edmonton's Catholic school board has voted to close one of its schools.
St. Andrew elementary school in Inglewood will close its doors at the end of June, leaving 75 students and their parents with some difficult decisions to make.
"It will be a challenge and a new experience, but not necessarily one I'm going to like," says Kim Cordeiro, chair of St. Andrew's school council.
"We've done so much for that school and I'm really going to miss the teachers and the kids and the closeness."
She said she and other parents are concerned about transportation, before and after school care, and how their children will fare in a larger school like St. Pius X.
"These seem like small things, but they're really very big things for parents to worry about."
St. Andrew's has been rumoured to be closing for years, particularly after it was recommended for closure in two reports prepared for the school board in the last three years.
But the board has struggled with the decision. Veteran trustee Ron Patsula resigned in March because of his strong opposition to the closure.
In the end, the board agreed with district administration that transferring St. Andrew's students to St. Pius X is the best option for the students because they will have access to more programs and a more modern facility.
Cordeiro isn't convinced. "I really truly believe that education is based on a lot of different factors, not just the money in a school."
Students at St. Andrew's interact with each other regardless of grade level, learn from each other and look out for each other, she says. They're also an integral part of the community.
"I don't believe my child has suffered in any way. There were some things I would have liked to see more of, and those were starting to be implemented over the past year."
It remains to be seen whether the decision to close St. Andrew's will have any effect on the board's request for funding for new schools.
After Edmonton's public school board revealed it was looking at closing two inner city schools with declining populations, Alberta Infrastructure announced the board would receive money for a new school in Twin Brooks, in recognition of the board's efforts to reach the 85 per cent utilization rate set by government.
Edmonton Catholic is asking for new schools in the north, southwest and southeast ends of the city in its capital plan.
Board chair Debbie Engel says she has had no indication about when the board would receive a response to the capital plan, but hopes it will be very soon.
"Our plan is lean and makes sense, and I'm very hopeful that it will be approved."
Along with closing St. Andrew's, the board voted April 30 to move the English program from St. Basil to St. Alphonsus, St. Patrick and St. Catherine schools, and shift elementary students from St. Hilda in Mill Woods to St. Elizabeth and John Paul I schools.
They also approved closing Sacred Heart and St. Michael schools in the inner city, but only if the province approves funding for a new school on the St. Michael site.
But the board did not go ahead with plans to move junior high students from Blessed Kateri to St. Hilda, or to combine St. Anne and St. Philip schools in the north end of the city.
Both those recommendations are also subject to the government's response to the board's capital plan, which proposes a new junior high school in The Meadows to ease overcrowding at Blessed Kateri, and a feasibility study on schools in the north end.
"The board felt that the K-2 and 3-6 split (at St. Anne and St. Philip) was not in the best interests of students until that study was done," Engel says.
Depending on government's response to the capital plan, parents in those areas may be going through the same process again next year.
The board has been dealing with the issue of closing schools and consolidating programs all year. The actions approved April 30 followed weeks of open forums and public input as a result of recommendations made through Project FIRST (Future Innovations Reaching Solutions for Tomorrow).
But Cordeiro questions how much that input was heard.
"I'm upset that the school is closing, but I'm just as angry at the way it was done.
"I don't know how to say how disappointed I am. I believe they knew all along they were going to close the school.
"It would have been more honest if they had come to us a year ago and said 'This is what we need from you' and worked with us to look at options."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.