For Immediate Release
July 7, 2023
The announcement of a new school in Portugal Cove – St. Philips is rightfully one that the community should welcome. As would any community to have a new school built. This is such a disappointing example of shallow decision making by the Furey Liberals. We have to ask why the Premier is prioritizing this new school considering the infrastructure and maintenance issues in other schools such as Frank Robert’s Junior High or the lack of HVAC systems or adequate ventilation systems in our schools needed to make sure students and staff have clean air.
The Human Resources crisis facing our schools that needs the Premier’s leadership. We have seen multiple examples of schools not having sufficient replacement teachers, resulting in doubling up of classes. In Torngat Mountains, the sudden removal of their teachers forced them onto online learning in a different time zone with inadequate access to the internet. Academic stream students moved to in class teaching in other streams, narrowing their post-secondary options.
In all cases, government failed to act to address current problems and are again acting without a plan with blatant disregard for how these flippant decisions will impact public education. The NLTA, teachers, parents have been calling on government to address teacher allocation - a problem exacerbated by the Liberal’s 2016 budget cuts - and ensure the needs of all students are met.
But that work is too hard to do. Announcing a design plan for a new school is much easier than fixing the Human Resources crises they helped create.
The Premier presented no data to support the need for a new school in Portugal Cove-St. Philips especially since the NLESD did not identify it as a priority. This decision was made without any consultation with the school district or dedicated people who have been working on.
Now, the Premier is able to pull a new school out of the political hat that was not identified as a priority by the school district, without presenting any data to justify the need for a new school.
The irony is not lost on the school community of Frank Roberts Junior High School. Parents, students and teachers demanded a new school and that their concerns be addressed. They provided pictures and evidence to back up their claim. The minister of Education steadfastly dismissed the concerns. Instead, he quickly presented evidence (reports) to dispute the concerns and justify government’s inaction.
What’s missing in this conversation, and what the Premier seems to ignore in this announcement is the impact it will have on programming, course offerings, extra curriculars. Student enrolment is key in determining the number of teachers and other education personnel in a school, which in turn determines what courses, services and programs are available for students. There is a reason why large schools can offer a diverse range of courses; they have the student and teacher population to do so.
PWC has an enrolment of approximately 640 students. If half move to the new school if and when it is built, what programs will be cut? French Immersion? Drama? Will students have access to the same guidance services? How will the allocation of teachers be affected? Will the number of school administrators for each school be reduced?
So many questions and so few answers. I might be tempted to trust the Liberals, believe they have a plan, and believe they are prepared to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work except I’ve seen too many examples that such is not the case - their decision to amalgamate the NLESD into the department is just one example that undermines any confidence I have.
The NL NDP called on government since the beginning of the pandemic to address these deficits. Instead they ignored those calls or responded with Band-Aid solutions. The pandemic taught us about the importance of adequate ventilation and clean air and laid bare the lack of and deficiencies in mechanical air ventilation and HVAC systems in our province’s schools Clean air in our schools doesn’t seem to be a priority as we emerge from a pandemic that brought the world to a standstill.
We just don’t believe they are prepared to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work.
For further information, contact Eddy St. Coeur, Director of Communications, NDP Caucus at 729-2137 (o), or email@example.com