Calgary Catholic School District halts closure consideration of St. Angela and St. Gerard schools
Both schools were eyed for closure because they're underutilized
Two Calgary Catholic schools that were under consideration for closure will remain open next school year.
The Calgary Catholic School District told parents in letters sent out on Wednesday that the closure consideration process for St. Angela and St. Gerard schools had ceased due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and that both schools will now remain open for the 2020-21 school year.
Earlier this year, both K-6 schools were brought into consideration for closure because they're underutilized.
The board was expected to make a final decision at its April 8 meeting, which has now been cancelled.
Closure consideration ends
According to the letter sent home to parents, it's policy that all proposed school closures be initiated and completed within the school year in which the decision to close is made.
"Because the school closure consideration was begun in the 2019-20 school year, board policy requires the process come to completion prior to the end of this school year," reads the letter.
"This morning, the board of trustees passed a motion in recognition of the impact of the COVID-19 virus on school communities and school operations.… As a result, parents are hereby notified that the school closure consideration … has ended."
Impact of pandemic
In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, board chair Mary Martin said the pandemic has had a significant impact on the board's ability to conduct the closure consideration process fairly.
"We did have requests for presentations at an upcoming board meeting. We do know that we have a directive to limit the sizes of congregations of people within rooms, and the safety of our families and stakeholders is paramount," she said.
Martin said the board had no way of knowing how many people would be coming to participate in the presentations.
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"And so with that in mind, and under and abundance of caution, we recognized that might impact how fully we would be able to get feedback from our communities before a decision would be made," she said.
Martin said the process also involves a fair amount of administrative work, which isn't currently the priority of administrators.
"Our administration and our staff need to be focused on navigating this new reality at this point, so that was also a factor," she said.
'Those things are on hold'
Martin said if the process were to have gone ahead and the schools were closed, there wouldn't have been enough time to welcome impacted families and students to their new school communities.
"A great deal of effort is made to welcome these families at their new schools ," she said.
"With the pandemic and the inability to do these activities like inviting the school council people and parents to the school and bringing students in to see their new surroundings — those things are on hold."
Martin said it's too early to say if the school closure consideration process will resume for these two school.
"We're hopeful that with the public profile that perhaps there may be more interest in these smaller schools. They're terrific schools," she said. "It's always a difficult contemplation when you're looking at perhaps closing one down because the population is such where you can no longer support ideal student learning."