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More than 100 students affected as Government confirms closure of two schools

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Heron Bay Primary School is to close in June. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

More than 100 students will have to find new schools to attend after Government revealed a primary and a middle school are to close in June.

Diallo Rabain gave a statement in the House of Assembly yesterday outlining the plan to close Clearwater Middle School in St George’s and reopen it as a signature school, as revealed by The Royal Gazette.

He also announced that Heron Bay Primary School in Southampton, one of eight primaries earmarked for closure as part of the Government’s education reform plans, would close its doors for good in June.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, announced the June closure of Clearwater Middle School which will reopen as a signature school, and Heron Bay Primary School (File photograph)

He said low enrolment numbers at each school were among the factors that were considered when making the decision – there are 71 students at Clearwater compared with an average of 225 at other middle schools. There are 59 at Heron Bay.

Mr Rabain, who broke the news to teachers and staff at the schools on Wednesday, said there were enough positions elsewhere in the public school system to transfer permanent teachers to and that there was "ample room“ for all students to attend alternative schools.

Mr Rabain said: “I know that individuals in the respective communities are still processing the information shared with them this week. Much work is required to enact these changes.

“As the Clearwater site is earmarked to become the site of a signature school, it is more practical to address infrastructure issues with an empty school.

“We recognise and apologise in advance for the inconvenience caused to our teachers, students and their families by this announcement.

“With regard to student and staff transitions, the Commissioner of Education [Kalmar Richards] and her Department of Education colleagues will engage in personalised one-to-one processes with each permanent staff member to hear their preferences regarding their redeployment.”

Mr Rabain said Clearwater was expected to close for about two years to make the necessary changes for it to become a signature school.

He said the signature programme would cover climate issues, partly because it was near the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences in St George’s and the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo in Hamilton Parish.

Mr Rabain said: “It will be the school that deals with climate issues and social issues. There is also a programme between Arizona State University and BIOS that we have had conversations about over the last couple of years.

“We can integrate some of the things that they are doing along with BIOS into the signature programme.”

Neville Tyrrell, the Government Whip, said he had heard concerns that there would not be enough spaces at Whitney Institute Middle School and Dellwood Middle School to accommodate all the Clearwater students and that some might find themselves having to commute to Sandys.

Mr Rabain said there was enough space at Whitney and Dellwood to accommodate all the students if that was where they wished to go.

However, he added: “There may be a situation where, if all of them want to go to Whitney, they may not fit, so there will have to be accommodations along those lines but the choice is going to be theirs and we will try to accommodate everyone’s first choice as much as we can.”

There was no mention about the fate of Whitney and Dellwood in the long term. As part of the Government’s education reform plans, which includes the phasing out of all middle schools, there will be up to five signature schools in Bermuda.

Those at The Berkeley Institute and CedarBridge Academy opened this year and with Sandys Secondary Middle School and now Clearwater having been confirmed as the next two, a question mark hangs over the future of the island’s two remaining middle schools.

If there are ultimately five signature schools, one may close. If four is the total number of signature schools, both may close.

Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, highlighted that some parents had already bought school uniforms for the start of term in September and questioned what the Government was doing to ease any financial burden.

Mr Rabain said a voucher scheme had been launched to “soften the blow” and that after discussions with parents a monetary commitment would be determined.

He added: “We know that Clearwater and Heron Bay are unique school communities and important to the larger St David’s and Southampton communities.

“Losing a significant fixture in each of these communities will be difficult. Through our History and Legacy Committee, we will ensure that the memories of Clearwater Middle School and Heron Bay Primary are cherished and that their histories and legacy are recognised and honoured.”

• Are you a parent of a student who is affected? What do you think about the closures? E-mail news@royalgazette.com

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Published March 04, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated March 07, 2023 at 9:15 am)

More than 100 students affected as Government confirms closure of two schools

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