Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 5, 2002
One school closes; 2 to remain open
Enraged parents leave board meeting
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Two out of the three Edmonton Catholic schools slated for closure will remain open, the school board decided April 28 after almost a month of public consultation.
The decision was received jubilantly by parents from Our Lady of Peace School in the west end of the city and St. Jerome's School in the north end.
But parents from inner-city St. Patrick's School were enraged by the decision. Most of them walked out of St. Joseph High School gymnasium, where the meeting was held, even before the formal vote to close the school was cast.
Sheri Zawada told the WCR, "It's outrageous because they are saying they have responsibility to all these children and yet, they don't stop and think what this means particularly to inner city school children, who have enough difficulty as it is."
She believes for some children the closure won't be that bad.
"But it's the majority who will suffer. And how many times do we move them. We have students at St. Patrick, who came from St. Basil when they closed that. Now they're moving again."
Zawada said she has a choice.
If she has to drive her granddaughter halfway across the city, that's what she is going to do. But whether she will take her to another Catholic school is not certain.
"I believe that God is everywhere. He is where they are teaching my child the rights of today's society," she firmly said.
St. Patrick's principal Jeff Johnson told the WCR, "It's an emotional thing for me and I know that it will be for my staff as well. We are really close to our students."
Johnson is convinced the parents did everything they could to convince the board not to close the school.
Parents were saying they did not have enough time and resources to make a proposal to the board to save their school.
Board chair Charlie Koester told the media, "They all had the same chance. The consultation process was the same for all of them. It started at the same time."
"They had the opportunity to sit down with the administration. They had the opportunity to send information."
Parents from the three schools worked hard to give the administration more information and alternative plans to keep their schools open.
"But St. Patrick was difficult because of its location with St. Alphonsus being close by and the opportunity to make that a more viable school is there," Koester said.
The district is hoping for a smooth transition for St. Patrick students who will be relocated to St. Alphonsus and St. Catherine schools.
"Every teacher and staff in our district when there is a situation like this, works their hearts out to make sure that our students get the best possible education and that the transition for them is an easy one," Koester assured.
During the consultation parents took some trustees on a walk from St. Patrick to St. Alphonsus to show them the prostitutes, dirty needles and used condoms they would encounter on their daily trips.
Koester gave an assurance that St. Alphonsus will work with the administration to ensure that part of the transition has minimal effect on the students.
Koester believes the decision will enhance the education of students from St. Patrick, St. Jerome and Our Lady of Peace.
"It also sends a clear message to our government that we are prepared to work with them to get dollars to help upgrade our facilities."
Karen Trenholm has two children at St. Patrick.
"I'm very disappointed. I'm not surprised, but . . . they love that school. The teachers are phenomenal. They love my kids. Because it's a small school I feel they are being taught better. There is more one-on-one and they know my kids."
She plans to look for another small school. St. Gerard is one of her options.
"Believe it or not I'm still going to be in the Catholic school system, which surprises me. I do believe that they do teach better morals and my kids enjoy it."
Nicole Truscott's son, in Grade 2 at St. Patrick, is in the special needs program. He travels an hour each way to school.
"Now they are talking about travelling further. He is seven years old. It's terrible. He spent two years at (another school). It was a complete nightmare. This year we have never had any problem."
Truscott's worry is that her son is going to lose faith. "I will go to the public school board and see if they have any equivalent program in my area."
Expressing her opposition to the school closure, trustee Debbie Cavaliere said she doesn't understand the discrepancy between getting more student spaces by building new schools and closing a school because of an inefficient utilization rate.
"Our problem is not that we don't have enough students. Our problem is that we have big spaces," she said.
Opposing the closure, trustee Mark Razzolini, said, "The only way to make change is to empower the people of St. Patrick's community. We need to help those who are in need."
Invoking the saying, What Would Jesus Do? Razzolini said his vote is simply an expression of what is "the right thing to do."
Trustee Judy Buddle's effort to encourage the people was met with enraged parents walking out of the meeting.
Cammy Perrin, co-chair of St. Jerome's school council, was jubilant with the decision for their school.
"I think they made the right decision. We get the opportunity to carry our plan forward and offer the children of Edmonton a science academy."
St. Jerome's plan for increasing enrolment is to enhance its science program.
Cathy Roskell, co-chair of Our Lady of Peace's school council said, "Next Monday is Our Lady of Peace Day and we are going to celebrate. Truly celebrate. Big time."