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Clearwater Middle School to close in June and reopen as signature school

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Clearwater Middle School (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Clearwater Middle School is to close its doors in June and reopen as a signature school.

And this morning, Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, also confirmed that Heron Bay primary school will also shut in June.

Sources in the education system said staff and teachers were informed of the plan by the Ministry of Education on Wednesday and that the students currently enrolled at Clearwater will be moved to other schools while upgrades are made to the St George’s facility.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, gave an update on the plans in the House of Assembly on Monday when legislation giving the green light to close primary schools was passed.

However, no mention was made of Clearwater Middle School becoming a signature school.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Government announced in 2020 that it planned to create five signature schools. The first two opened at The Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy this year and Sandys Secondary Middle School was announced as the third, though plans to open this year have stalled.

If Clearwater is confirmed as the fourth signature school, either Dellwood Middle School in Pembroke or Whitney Institute Middle School in Smith’s will then become the fifth and final signature school under the reform plans and the remaining school could close its doors permanently.

On Wednesday an educator told The Royal Gazette: “I have been informed that the ministry held a meeting with staff yesterday and parents last night where it was announced that Clearwater Middle School is going to be a signature school.

“They are closing it in June so they can make the changes – it will be easier without the children there. They didn’t give a date for when the school would open as a signature school.

“I was told that they are already starting to make changes and improvements at the school.”

Asked about the announcements, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education would only say: “The Ministry of Education is proceeding with education reform.

“New developments will be communicated to the general public once all of the internal stakeholders have been informed.”

A teacher, who wished to remain unnamed, confirmed that teachers were informed by the minister that the school would be closing in June. The teacher did not confirm whether information was shared regarding signature school status.

Another source in the education system said: “Teachers at Clearwater Middle School had a meeting at 3.30pm and the parents had a meeting in the evening.”

The Royal Gazette has been sent a letter that went out to Clearwater parents on Wednesday inviting them to “an important in-person meeting” at the school at 6pm that same evening.

It said the minister would provide “an update on critical changes taking place within education reform”.

It added: “There will be an opportunity to ask questions and seek further clarity as the ministry progresses education reform. We apologise in advance for the lateness of this invitation.”

Ben Smith, the Shadow Minister of Education, said the OBA had not been told about the closure, but understood the decision was taken because of the low number of registered students at the school.

He asked if parents had been warned that the closure could happen, and questioned what schools would be available for students who had been set to attend in September.

“This change may have a negative emotional impact and may have further impact on transportation and other logistics for parents,” Mr Smith said.

“There is no way this is a decision that just happened yesterday so we hope there had been open dialogue with parents on their options before this announcement was made.

“There also must be questions regarding the impact on teachers and school staff and how they will be integrated into the system where other schools already have teachers and staff.”

Mr Smith said a “delicate balance” needed to be struck during the education reform process, and the focus must be on the students.

“Minimal impact, emotional and otherwise, must be considered,” he added. “They have already endured numerous disruptions during the pandemic, and any further disruptions should be kept to a minimum.”

The Ministry of Education announced in July 2021 that eight primary schools will be closed under the reform plans.

The schools that were officially 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.

Elliot Primary School was also on the original list of schools facing closure but a decision was made to save it following public consultation.

Purvis Primary and Francis Patton Primary will be the first primaries to formally relaunch as parish primary schools in September.

Mr Rabain said on Monday the Education (Primary Schools) Temporary Act 2023 would “hammer another nail in the coffin” of the island’s three-tiered school system as the Government moves to phase out middle schools.

Senators pass law to create first parish primary schools

Legislation to create the first parish primary schools – and begin phasing out middle schools – was approved yesterday in the senate days after passing in the House.

The Education (Primary Schools) Temporary Act 2023 would relaunch Purvis Primary and Francis Patton Primary as the first two parish primary schools in September.

Owen Darrell, the Government Senate Leader, said the change was part of the wider effort to fulfil the Government promise of education reform, including the end of the three-tier education system.

“This Bill provides for the new structure within which the educational ecosystem for parish primary schools will exist and thrive,” he said.

He added that amendments included in the Bill will allow the minister to close schools once they are no longer needed.

“Members are aware of the many challenges facing public education, including the continued decline in enrolment,” Mr Darrell said, noting that as of last September a total of 4,055 students were in the public school system.

Education reform intends to create a two-tier system with just primary and senior levels.

The Royal Gazette has reached out to the Bermuda Union of Teachers and the Bermuda Public Services Union which represents principals.

• This story was updated to include a statement from the One Bermuda Alliance

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Published March 03, 2023 at 1:27 pm (Updated March 03, 2023 at 1:27 pm)

Clearwater Middle School to close in June and reopen as signature school

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