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Schools Report: submissions to save primaries set to close

A submission opposing the closure of St George’s Preparatory School attracted about 700 signatures (File photograph)

Members of the community hoping to save their schools put forward several alternatives to closure during the consultation on parish primary schools.

Elliot Primary School in Devonshire was the only school originally slated for closure under the Parish Primary School Plan that Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, was persuaded to keep open.

Eight other primary schools now face the axe despite the many calls to save them.

Those confirmed for closure are: St George’s Preparatory School, St George’s; St David’s Primary School, St George’s; Prospect Primary School, Devonshire; Northlands Primary School, Pembroke; Gilbert Institute, Paget; Heron Bay Primary School, Southampton; Port Royal Primary School, Southampton; and West End Primary School, Sandys.

The Parish Primary School Decisions report included submissions from representatives from schools slated for closure as follows:

West End Primary School

One of the most contentious closures was West End Primary School in Sandys. One submission alone opposing the move represented more than 200 people.

The feelings of consultees were so strong that Mr Rabain invited them to meet him after the consultation period had ended. Many points raised were recently reported in The Royal Gazette.

Significant concerns surrounded the history and legacy of West End Primary as one of the first schools in Bermuda to provide a free education to Black students.

However, history and legacy were not part of the scoring process, the Parish Primary School Decisions report said, and Somerset Primary School was selected to be retained.

The submission said: “It is believed that the score for West End Primary School would have outnumbered that of Somerset Primary School if community legacy or cultural values were included in the scoring process.”

The report stated in response: “The study factors were directly related to how to best achieve 21st-century learning to improve the quality of education and student attainment and outcomes.”

The report acknowledged the need to preserve history and legacy, which it said could be achieved by forming committees that document important parts of Bermuda’s history, not least racial segregation and discrimination.

St George’s Preparatory School

The closure of St George’s Preparatory School, one of the highest performing primary schools based on Cambridge Checkpoint Assessment results, attracted an opposing submission signed by about 700 people.

The expansion capacity of the school was not reflective of its true potential, the submission argued. It said historically the school housed 257 students and combined with the enrolment of St David’s Primary the total number of students to accommodate would be 258. However, the report said historical enrolment was “not an indicator”.

“Comparing past enrolment, especially historical enrolment when desks were largely organised in rows and specialised learning spaces were less common, doesn’t provide a true picture of the number of students who can be appropriately taught within the school’s classrooms,” the Parish Primary School Decisions report said.

Speaking to the fact that the land on which St George’s Prep sits is privately owned by a trust, the report added: “The minister considered whether public funds should be spent on a privately owned school site when a more appropriate and larger school site to meet the ministry’s vision and objectives is available in close proximity and whose benefits will be wholly public.”

St David’s Primary School

Concerns were raised about the closure of St David’s Primary School because the distance for most students from St David’s to East End Primary School, which will be retained, is about 20 minutes.

The Parish Primary School Decisions report said: “While transportation may be a hardship for some parents, it will be addressed by the provision of dedicated buses.”

It was proposed by consultees that St David’s Primary be the parish school for St George’s but the report said it doesn’t have the land area or green space needed for the necessary expansion.

Port Royal Primary School

Associates of Port Royal Primary School in Southampton submitted that the school should stay open.

The report said: “The site is not large enough and along with the site’s topography doesn’t lend itself to be the best option for the parish primary school for the parish.”

Heron Bay Primary School

Heron Bay Primary School will close and Dalton E Tucker Primary School will be the parish school for Southampton.

One submission called for Heron Bay Primary to remain open. However, the Parish Primary School Decisions report said the site was too small and limited the ability for programme expansion.

Northlands Primary School

Consultees suggested that all three schools in Pembroke remain open rather than one of them, Northlands Primary School, be closed.

The number of students in the parish is projected to be at 286 by 2027. The report said: “Two schools are needed in this parish to accommodate the current and projected population of students in the parish and in the central zone.”

A submission suggested that Northlands Primary was “one of the better schools in Pembroke.”

The report said the school “has a very small footprint and playground area; the field is also across the street, which is a safety concern”.

Gilbert Institute

One submission suggested retaining Gilbert Institute, which is to close, as the school for exceptionalities.

The report said that the exceptionalities signature school must be close to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital because of the medical needs of students and clients and additional space is needed for the expansion of programmes.

Prospect Primary School

Prospect Primary School was chosen to become an exceptionalities signature school because it is near the Dame Majorie Bean Hope Academy and the K Margaret Carter Centre.

The report said that the school would enrol students from all over Bermuda and it was important the site be centrally located and accessible for students and their families, and for adult clients who attend KMCC, and their families. Due to the health needs of some of the students who attend DMBHA, it is important for the site to be located close to the hospital.

Elliot Primary School

Mr Rabain accepted an alternative to the closure of Elliot Primary School in Devonshire submitted during the consultation.

The original plan to build a new school for Elliot was scrapped after consultees questioned why the old school building could not be refurbished.

The report said: “Using Elliot Primary School instead of a new Devonshire primary school is a viable option as the land area at Elliot Primary School facilitates the vision for expanded capability and plenty of green space.”

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Published September 10, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated September 10, 2021 at 7:38 am)

Schools Report: submissions to save primaries set to close

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