Fewer students could mean fewer schools for western Newfoundland

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board is considering closing and combining some schools in rural areas of western Newfoundland

Schools in rural areas could close with students bused to nearby communities

Tony Stack says some rural west coast schools could close by September 2018 with students being bused to nearby communities. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board is considering closing and combining some schools in rural areas in western Newfoundland.

"We have faced declining enrolment and that is a bit of trigger for some of this," said Tony Stack, interim CEO and director of education with the board.

"It's also about programming efficiencies, and yes, there is cost savings associated with this that can be accrued by doing these combinations,"

There is cost savings associated with this.- Tony Stack

Three school systems are under review in western Newfoundland.

LeGallais Memorial in Isle aux Morts could possibly close with students bused to St. James Elementary and High School in Port aux Basques, or they could be bused to Grandy's River Collegiate in Burnt Islands. 

Sections of road near Isle aux Morts and Burnt Islands are known to be closed during stormy winter weather. This could cause issues for busing students.

"It's a reality of Newfoundland and Labrador. We have a system of schools spread out in many communities. Winter can be harsh in the province," Stack said.

"We do what we can to mitigate. We rely on Transportation and Works to keep the roads clear. Schools are briefed on how to mitigate for loss of instructional time."

Northern Peninsula

The board is suggesting James Cook Memorial in Cook's Harbour on the Northern Peninsula also close and students would be bused to White Hills Academy in St. Anthony starting in 2018. 

As well, the board is offering the option that two schools in St. George's become one.

Appalachia High School and Our Lady of Mercy, which are right next to each other, could become one K-12 school.

"We are hoping for operational efficiencies," Stack said. "There is some minor savings in respect to HR costs by combining the secretarial effort and administration effort. You would have one administration. One principal, one vice principal."

These zone reviews are happening throughout the district which involves the school board consulting with members of the school council, administrators and the communities. 

Right now the board is gathering feedback from parents and the public until Friday, Nov.17. The Board of Trustees will review all feedback on Nov. 25 and there is potential for a notice of motion to move the suggestions forward.

A vote will take place in February.

The school board plans on hosting public meetings in the communities affected before the end of the year. 

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show