Nfld. & Labrador·Video

5 schools closed by English School District

Holy Cross Junior High, Whitbourne Elementary, Sacred Heart All Grade, Long Island Academy and Heritage Academy will not re-open next fall following a secret-ballot vote by the district's board of trustees.

Decisions made at a Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board meeting in St. John's

ESD decides to close five N.L. schools 0:56

Five schools in this province are slated to close following a meeting of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board Saturday. 

Holy Cross Junior High in St. John's, Whitbourne Elementary in Whitbourne, Sacred Heart All Grade in Conche, Long Island Academy on Long Island, Notre Dame Bay, and Heritage Academy in Greenspond, will not re-open next fall following a secret-ballot vote by the district's board of trustees.

Vote results were not made public and ballots were destroyed after the votes.

"We have the option of using a paper ballot and all of the trustees around the table are volunteers. Many of them work at private jobs and sometimes, you know, how you stand up and be counted, I guess, or raise your hand to close a school could affect your business or affect your employer," said Board of Trustees Chair Milton Peach.

"I think in the interest of our trustees having the right to vote without being publicly saying what was the reason they did it. We had lots of discussion around that and that has been done quite often at school boards for that reason."

In late February, The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils said the provincial government should put a moratorium on school closures until new school board trustees are elected.

Parents and politicians gathered for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board meeting on April 16. (Katie Breen/CBC)

The last school board elections were held in 2009, when the province had four school boards for English schools.

In 2013 those four boards merged into one: the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.The 15 trustees on the current board were appointed from the old boards, not elected.

Parents spoke out

Holy Cross Junior High students will now attend Brother Rice Junior High in St. John's.

Parents of Holy Cross students rallied in March after a proposal by the English School District to shut the school down.

About 50 parents attended a meeting March 4 to discuss a "school system review process" that could see the 160 students moved to Brother Rice.

Parents of Sacred Heart All Grade students in Conche, on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, also spoke out after they learned in February that their school might be closed.

They say it will be unsafe to bus children almost an hour over a pot-hole pocked, gravel road to a school in Roddickton. That road – Route 434 – has been deemed one of Atlantic Canada's worst roads by The Canadian Automobile Association for three of the last six years.

At least one of those parents was in St. John's for the vote on Saturday.

Paula Talbot of Conche, is upset with the school board's decision to close her community's school. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"That road is treacherous. And telling us right now that there are going to be road improvements — it's only a band-aid fix, some more gravel put on that road," said Paula Talbot, parent of two of the twelve children enrolled at Sacred Heart All Grade. 

Talbot criticized her local MHA Christopher Mitchelmore as well as Education Minister Dale Kirby.

"The two of them today should be too ashamed to raise their heads for what they have put our children through, and what is coming up," she said.

"This is not over. Not by a long shot.'- Patti Kennedy

Patti Kennedy, the school council chair for Whitbourne Elementary was also at the meeting.

"Our initial reaction is anger followed by shock," said Kennedy.

"The process is flawed. Round two begins on Monday morning. This is not over. Not by a long shot,"

With files from Katie Breen