Parents push back against proposed closure of Pearce Junior High
NLESD considering moving grades 8 and 9 to Marystown Central High
A potential school closure on the Burin Peninsula has been met with pushback from parents who say the negatives far outweigh the positives.
A proposed closure of Pearce Junior High would see its Grade 8 and 9 students transferred to Marystown Central High School.
April Pitcher, chair of a parent action committee formed in response to the motion, says everyone involved will suffer if the school closes.
"They will save over $500,000 by closing Pearce and, of course, there's going to be jobs lost there," Pitcher said. "And with that comes support services. Right now classes need more services rather than reductions."
The motion to close the school was tabled at a board meeting last December, following a review of the Marystown Central High School system. Another motion tabled at the same meeting — concerning restructuring of the elementary schools — is no longer being considered.
According to the district's website, the review focused "on potential school system improvements in the areas of declining enrolment."
But Pitcher says Pearce's student population, according to the school board's own predictions, is expected to decrease by only about 10 students by 2023.
"That's not enough to close the school, is it?" Pitcher said.
Pitcher says the population in the school could increase in coming years due to planned aquaculture projects.
"We have Grieg Seafarms, which projects 800 jobs or more. Marbase projects bringing on more jobs," Pitcher said.
At the very least, Pitcher said, the decision should be delayed by several years to see if new industry draws families to the area.
Burin parent Bailey Hynes says families are already coming back to the area.
"There's young families coming back here, you can see it," Hynes said. "There's actually more here than when I came here one year ago."
Hynes says the Marystown high school can't add two more grades without the quality of education taking a hit.
"Last year, MCHS had a hundred per cent graduating class. That's insane," she said. "They wouldn't be able to have that support with adding 230 children into that school."
Class size is not really a factor here at all.- Tony Stack
Tony Stack, the district's CEO and director of education, says concerns are being heard and considered, but some have no merit.
"Class size is not really a factor here at all, because those are driven by formulas in the staffing allocation that government provides to the district," he said.
Stack said formulas vary by grade but class sizes cannot go over the caps provided by the government, so classes would be added rather than just absorbing the students into existing ones.
If Pearce closes, Stack said, district staff would try to find affected teachers jobs in the local area or as close as possible.
Stack said combining the schools could have unexpected benefits; more teachers being located in one building increases their chances of working in their field of specialty, he said.
He said it's natural teachers, parents and students develop a comfort level and attachment to their current school but the potential change would not be as painful as some fear.
"That's completely understandable," Stack said.
"But in my experience when decisions are made like this — again, 'if' they're made is the caveat — but when they are made, then students adapt very quickly to the new environment."
The final decision will be made at a public meeting March 28.