Nfld. & Labrador

School's out forever, but Whitbourne parents group takes court action to fight closure

Parents in Whitbourne are once again fighting to reverse a decision to close the community's elementary school.

Committee launches court action against NLESD board of trustees for its decision

NLESD decided in April to permanently close Whitbourne Elementary, but parents say they're going to continue to fight to keep it open. (CBC)

Parents in Whitbourne are once again fighting to reverse a decision to close the community's elementary school, and seem prepared to take their battle from the schoolyard to the courtroom. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District decided in April that Whitbourne Elementary would close its doors for good at the end of this school year.

But Paulette Ralph said she and other parents will continue to lobby the province and school board to keep the school open.

"We really want people to understand that the process we were given is a flawed one, and that's something that really needs to be changed," she said.

We've been reviewed before and we've kept the school open before, so I really think that it's possible.- Paulette Ralph

Whitbourne Elementary was previously set to close, but in July 2013 parents won the fight to reverse that decision and kept the school open.

Ralph said a group of parents has been calling the board of trustees for the school district, as well as Education Minister Dale Kirby and Premier Dwight Ball, asking them to change their minds.

She said they haven't had any response, but she's still hoping a meeting can be set up some time soon.

"We have hope. We haven't really received any feedback from NLESD, but we're continuing to call," she said.

"This decision has been reversed before, we've been reviewed before and we've kept the school open before, so I really think that it's possible."

'Not willing to give up the fight'

Meanwhile, a group called Help Whitbourne Elementary Committee said in a statement Thursday afternoon that it has launched court action against the NLESD for its April decision to close the school.

The notice states the committee has provided "extensive factual research" to the province and the school board prior to the decision.

"The correspondence highlights our concerns with a flawed and rushed school review process. All of this information has been ignored and we were forced to initiate legal proceedings," the statement said. 

Primary and elementary students from Whitbourne will be accommodated at Woodland Elementary in Dildo, and Ralph said the children spent a day there recently to get used to their new surroundings.

While that school was welcoming, Ralph said it has some existing issues that won't be able to accommodate all the students transferring from Whitbourne, including special needs students and students with mobility issues.

"Also, the building's repair costs that were given to us for both schools were really estimated, I believe, on misinformation," she said.

Ralph said enrolment at Whitbourne Elementary has been rising recently and a decision to close its doors doesn't make sense, adding she'll continue to petition for it to open again in the fall.

"Regardless of the physical location our children will attend school in September, but we're not willing to give up the fight yet. We really want that school to be our existing school in Whitbourne."

With files from the St. John's Morning Show