Parents of students at Whitbourne Elementary made the most Monday night when they were given a second chance to save the eastern Newfoundland town's only elementary school.

The Eastern School District admits that parents had not been given a fair hearing before the school board decided to close Whitbourne Elementary.

On Monday night, more than 200 parents, children and others crowded into a gymnasium in Blaketown and urged the board's volunteer trustees to keep the school open for a variety of reasons.

Neta Bradbury held back tears as she explained why her 11-year-old son, who needs a walker and cane to move around, should stay at the school.

"Because of the facility in Whitbourne, it's all on the one level. He don't need the help of anyone to get around," she said, adding the alternative school in Dildo is not as accessible, which would mean needing assistance from someone else.

"It's in question what he's going to be able to do on his own now because he's not going to be independent. He [will] need to have the help from a student aide."

The board had originally decided to bus students who currently attend Whitbourne Elementary to Dildo, about 20 kilometres away.

Busing cited as key concern

Parent Stephanie Phillips said the bus run will mean many students will not be able to take part in extra-curricular activities, and will miss out on social aspects of attending school.


Chair Milton Peach admits the Eastern School District was at fault with its first consultation with parents at Whitbourne Elementary. (CBC)

Moreover, she argued that Whitbourne is bucking the demographic trend of many rural towns.

"It's a viable community - there's people moving in daily. It just doesn't make sense to take the heart of the community out of a growing community," she told CBC News.

Trustees will review the new information and make a decision on July 10.

Board chair Milton Chair admits there were problems with how the original decision was made. Parents had applied to Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to fight the decision before the board gave parents a reprieve.

"When we went back and had a look at it we thought it was in the best interest of ourselves as well as to give the parents in Whitbourne the benefit of the doubt and provide them with this additional round of consultations," said Peach.

"The courts indicated very clearly that it wasn't a challenge with our decision, but rather a challenge on the process."

The board had decided last October to close five rural schools in eastern Newfoundland. Before Christmas, however, the board reversed decisions affecting schools in Catalina, Swift Current and Colliers.

The school in Islington-Heart's Delight remains the only school from the original five to stay on the list of closures.