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Rethink closure of West End Primary, says OBA

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Opposition senator Ben Smith, the Shadow Education Minister (File photograph)

The Government must “pause and reconsider” the closure of the West End Primary School, the One Bermuda Alliance said yesterday.

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

The plan will set up one public primary school per parish, except for Pembroke which will have two.

The Government determined which schools would close or remain open based partly on the size and state of the facilities.

In a statement, the Shadow Education Minister Ben Smith said yesterday that the OBA agreed with the primary school changes “due to Bermuda’s declining birthrate, the mass exodus of students from the Bermuda public school system to enrol in private schools and the number of families emigrating because of the escalating cost of living under the Progressive Labour Party government”.

He added: “But the methodology used to determine which schools would get the axe was faulty and gave minimal importance to the cultural and historical legacy of schools that are the cornerstones of our communities.”

According to Mr Smith, two points from the Ministry of Education’s 2020 proposal for the introduction of parish primary schools that resonate with teachers and residents are the plan for each school to become a parish hub and to honour the legacy of the institutions.

West End Primary School, founded in 1869, was one of the first schools in the western hemisphere that accepted and educated Black students.

Mr Smith said: “West End Primary School’s physical location and its social symbolism as a beachhead against racial segregation serves as a memorial to those who braved discrimination to educate thousands of Black people through the years, makes it a natural hub of Sandys Parish.

“Although it scored a mere five percentile points behind Somerset Primary School in the ministry’s decision-making matrix, its cultural significance … is being ignored.

West End Primary School (File photograph)

He said that the school’s “long and rich history of educating racially disadvantaged students” made its impending closure “puzzling”.

Residents have held several protests about the schools’s closure, including a town hall meeting at Somerset Cricket Club, a protest throughout Hamilton when former pupils took to the streets to speak out against the closure and a recent island-wide motorcade organised by the West End Warriors.

Despite the protests, the Ministry of Education still plans to close the school.

Mr Smith added: "The One Bermuda Alliance has consulted with families who live in the parish and activists who are protesting this decision and would advise that the Government pause and reconsider the closing of this school.

“It is time to listen to the residents of the Sandys community and make an exception for the sake of present and future generations.”

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Published March 30, 2023 at 7:36 am (Updated April 17, 2023 at 5:47 pm)

Rethink closure of West End Primary, says OBA

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