Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 10, 2003
Parents defend their schools
They want Catholic presence in their neighbourhoods
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Cammy Perrin with two other parents, whose children go to St. Jerome's School,was busy hauling some hot lunch for the students out of a van.
It was Tuesday, the day after Edmonton's Catholic school board approved public consultation for the closure of its three elementary schools - St. Jerome is one of them.
"We lost our church last year - St. Paul's Parish - and now we're losing the school. We're feeling that there's not going to be anything here anymore to show our Catholic faith," she told the WCR after they fed the students.
Perrin and her family moved out of this part of the city. But her two children - one in Grade 2 and another in Grade 5 - continued attending St. Jerome.
"The education that they are getting here I feel is superior to other schools that are closer to us."
If the school closes in June 2003, Perrin would have to change her driving route so that her children could be in the same school as their friends. Another option she has is to enroll them in the school closer to their house.
"I don't want either. I want them to go here," she stressed.
The school council, of which Perrin is the co-chair, will put together a plan to show the school district that the existence of their "school is still valid."
"We want the school board to realize that it's a valid part of the community, and not only to the parents and children who go to this school, but to the community as a whole."
Gail Rogers, school council co-chair, said, "I think the parents are upset and alarmed . . . although everything is in the preliminary stage."
In the past years they heard that the school might be closed. "But it never got to this stage where we felt it's imminent."
Moving to another school is not a huge deal for her son, but as a community member she believes it is important to have a faith-based education available for the residents in the area. Rundle Heights Elementary School is just beside St. Jerome.
Trustee Mark Razzolini of ward 3, where two schools may be facing closure, did not vote in favour of the consultation.
"I definitely understand why we have to make this tough decision and go ahead and look at the possibility of school closure," he told the WCR March 3.
"My one concern . . . every year the community always seemed to be waiting, wondering, on the edge of their seats, whether they're the next school (to close)."
Razzolini insisted the district has to give a school a heads-up when its utilization rating is critical. "It doesn't have to be a surprise to the community. That has always bothered me," he said.
"I'm not against closing a school if we need to, but I just think we need to do a better job at informing our constituents about when that will happen, so that they are not in shock and surprise when it comes up in a public meeting."
He believes the two communities facing possible school closure really need those schools.
"But we'll go through the process and I'll be standing with the community and see where it goes, see how the community feels and I'll vote accordingly. The community has to feel comfortable with it before I support whatever action the district takes."
Trustee Debbie Engel of ward 1, voted in favour of the consultation but with difficulty because one of the threatened schools is in her ward.
"I would like to make it crystal clear that the consultation process works. The people behind these recommendations worked hundreds of hours before coming up with these recommendations."
Engel expressed her strong objection to the way the government measures schools' utilization.
"In my heart, when I take emotions away, I am not convinced that the best for Our Lady of Peace School is its closure."
She also noted that Mayfield Elementary School is adjacent to Our Lady of Peace. But before she votes on April 28 she wants her constituents to voice their opinions.
Kris Urbanczyk's Grade 6 daughter will not be affected even if St. Patrick is closed, although she does not want this to happen.
"I think we can present the board with a strong argument not to close the school. I think it would be a great loss to the community."
Urbanczyk, chair of the school council, thinks the long-term cost in closing the school may be greater than what the people are prepared to pay in the future.
If the school is closed, the district may save some money but Urbanczyk is worried about the social cost.
She sees a good mix among the staff, the students and the parents adhering to the idea that it takes a whole village to raise a child. In fact the school is preparing for the dedication of its new school chapel on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.
Public meetings regarding the issue are slated on the following: March 20 at St. Patrick, March 24 at Our Lady of Peace and March 27 at St. Jerome.