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Performance ‘ignored’ in closure decision

The people of St David's came out in force last night to defend one of the three pillars of their community — St David's Primary School.

The school is one of four earmarked for possible closure as part of the Bermuda Government's school reorganisation [Score] plan. Gathering at Clearwater Middle School, St David's islanders spoke of the importance of the churches of St David's, St David's Cricket Club and the school itself.

The school's successful academic record featured strongly in many arguments communicated to education minister Wayne Scott who was present as part of a public consultation exercise. Many in the audience asked why the performance of students was not factored into the Score report. “Why is it being closed? One of the highest performing schools on the island?” one man asked.

“We have had some of the best students, so why close us?”

Mr Scott skirted the question saying he'd been asked by many parents if a school performing poorly would factor into its closure. He said: “I made it very clear that that wasn't the case. From the conversations that we were having at the start of last year we needed to get prolific information on what our schools look like — what are the enrolment levels at our schools? What are our projections for enrolment in our school? “We did not look at that [academic] information with regards to this report.”

One man asked for the results for all the individual schools to be released rather than results from the island as a whole, to which the audience cheered. He said if the ministry did not make the information available a Pati [public access to information] request would be made for it.

Mr Scott responded: “I would suggest you make a request [for test results] to your school — that information is readily available”.

Mr Scott went on to explain why financial data did not factor into the Score report: “The financial information is readily available in the budget book. It outlines what operational requirements are made available to the students.

“Unfortunately, some of the school maintenance comes from the Works and Engineering and Parks [departments] budgets so we did't have that breakdown in an easily tabled format for the Score committee to look at.”

Transportation was a concern raised by several in the audience.

Highlighting the rise in gasoline, one woman said: “The commute from St David's to East End Primary adds approximately ten extra miles every day or 50 miles per week to their mileage.”

She asked what time working parents would have to leave home to get their children to school before work.

“What if the bus is late?” she asked the minister.

“If it shows up,” a woman from the audience shouted, to knowing applause.

Some questioned whether the move to close St David's Primary School was about politics. One man questioned why three of the four schools earmarked for closure were in PLP strongholds, asking whether the move was designed to discredit the party.

“If it was an OBA stronghold, would my school be closing?”

One questioned whether the school facility would be sold off in the event of closure saying, “if you sell it there will be war down here!” to which the audience applauded. The biggest cheer of the night came when one speaker talked of the well-respected former principal Mr Edward Wright. The house came down and the crowd jumped to its feet in celebration of his good work.

Future uncertain: St David's Primary School is one of four earmarked for possible closure. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 24, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 24, 2016 at 7:05 am)

Performance ‘ignored’ in closure decision

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