LEADING TICKLES, NL – Nora Chippett had a nerve-wracking Saturday afternoon.
“A lot of people said we never had a prayer, but we did it,” she told the Advertiser after the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) meeting that decided the fate of Leading Tickles Primary School and four others across the province.
“We may be small in number, but we did it.”
Chippett and other parents had pled their case to several board of trustees’ members last month, but the final decision was made at a meeting in St. John’s Feb. 3.
Schools in Swift Current, Isle aux Morts and Cook’s Harbour will remain open – along with the primary school in Leading Tickles.
The board voted in favour of closing only one school: H.L. Strong Academy in Little Bay Islands, a school that currently has no students and no projected future enrolment. The decision was made unanimously, and H.L Strong Academy will officially close in June. NLESD estimates the closures will save the province $77,000 annually.
It was also proposed that Our Lady of Mercy Elementary and Appalachia High in St. George’s consolidate. The motion was carried unanimously. NLESD estimates the consolidation to result in annual savings of $116,000.
“We’re very happy, and it was nerve-wracking, but I can’t say I’m that surprised,” Chippett said. “The feedback we got from the board of trustees’ members who came out to visit the schools was really positive.”
At the meeting, which was broadcast live on the NLESD website, several board members spoke openly on their concerns about closing some of the schools, stating for the record they would oppose the motion.
They said rezoning and closure would result in longer bus drives, unsafe driving conditions, the mixture of elementary students and high school students and a loss of sense of community amongst students.
Chippett had argued the same points in her presentation last month and was pleased and grateful they seemed to have struck a chord.
Still, the process is not over yet.
In the case of Leading Tickles Primary, board member Hayward Blake noted that a more comprehensive review of the schools in the area would be needed at some point in the future.
“There are actually four schools that we should be looking at, and not just this particular school [Leading Tickles], and I think we need a comprehensive plan, moving into the future, for all the schools in the area.”
Chippett said she was glad to hear the situation in the area would be further examined, but that for right now, she was just relieved the community would be keeping its school come June.
“I really want to thank the board of trustees,” she said. “This is good for us, but I’m pleased for the other schools as well. This is good for everyone.”
-with files from Mark Squibb