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Motorcade planned to protest closure of primary school

Defiant tone: a flyer issued by West End Warriors, a lobby group of former students opposed to its closing in new education reforms proposed by government to have only one primary school per parish (Image supplied)

A protest group opposing the proposed closure of West End Primary School is set to hold a motorcade today to highlight their cause.

The Sandys school is one of eight public primaries earmarked for closure as part of the Government’s education reform initiative.

The plan will see one primary school per parish, except for Pembroke which will have two, the phasing out of middle schools and the introduction of signature schools.

The Berkeley Institute and Cedar Bridge Academy were created as the first two signature schools in September and the Government plans to add Sandys Secondary and Clearwater Middle Schools to the list.

The island’s fifth and final signature schoolwill be located at either Dellwood Middle School in Pembroke or Whitney Institute in Smith’s.

Ellen-Kate Horton, a former Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education and member of the West End Warriors which is organising the motorcade, said despite all the group’s efforts to save the school, the Ministry of Education had not listened to the group’s concerns.

She said: “All the decisions about the school were made during [lockdown] and so far, they have not listened to us.” She hopes the motorcade will change that.

Ms Horton, an alumnus of West End Primary, believes in preserving the school because, founded in 1869, it was one of the first schools in the western hemisphere that accepted and educated Black children.

The motorcade will leave from the school’s main entrance around 2.30pm, travel west to Dockyard then along Middle Road to Hamilton, past both the Ministry of Education and Progressive Labour Party headquarters.

It will continue to North Shore Road, to St George’s and then head back to the school.

West End Warriors will also be holding a town hall event, where people can express their concerns, on April 5.

The motorcade will not be not the West End Warrior’s first attempt to save the school.

The group held a town hall meeting at Somerset Cricket Club, protested throughout Hamilton and launchedan e-mail campaign.

Progressive Labour Party MP Jamahl Simmons also opposed closing the school.

In a letter, he wrote: “Together we can continue to appeal to our government to change this decision.

“Together we can take a stand for our history, our culture and our community and say as one voice, not here, not today, not ever. West End Primary for ever.”

The group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda said it continued to question shuttering West End Primary in favour of Somerset Primary – and that current and former students and staff were in a “surprising position” of fighting to save its legacy.

The group said primary school marked an “innovative and inspirational times for learning”, with many tracing their memories of first friends and teachers’ kindness to the school.

Attending West End grew into “a rite of passage for Somerset’s many successful adults” over generations.

“That West End is a heartbeat in Sandys is an understatement; entire families were educated and nurtured at West End, particularly at a time when Black children were not allowed to attend Somerset Primary.”

Curb said the West End Warriors were descendants and beneficiaries of past teachers’ professionalism and compassion in overcoming systemic racism in Somerset.

The struggle made the school “not just the option, but the better option for families who had faced discrimination”.

“Schools are more than bricks and mortar. Schools have a soul, a story, a narrative that can compel a 20th century student to return to the same school as a 21st century teacher.

“Accordingly, West End Warriors are unified in seeking protection of the legacy, role and history of West End Primary School by retaining its heritage and ensuring it is future-facing. Curb is proud to support their efforts to organise and strive for their cause.“

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Published March 18, 2023 at 7:57 am (Updated March 18, 2023 at 8:02 am)

Motorcade planned to protest closure of primary school

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