Thursday, March 25, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Wednesday, March 24, 2010)

The final act in the school closure drama, the City fires back at Sun Wave with its own court filing and the NDP seek a moratorium on tanker traffic on the North coast, some of the items of note for Wednesday.

Daily News, front page, headline story
WITH HEAVY HEARTS, SCHOOL BOARD CLOSES WESTVIEW-- The latest chapter in school closures played out on Tuesday evening, as School District 52 trustees voted by a margin of 5-2 to close Ecole Westview School on the city's west side, while putting aside the motion to close Port Edward School for a period of three to six months, while they discuss further the education options for Port Edward with the District of Port Edward council. The move to close Westview, provided the opportunity to keep Roosevelt Park School open, with the trustees weighing the options and deciding that in the end for them, there would be more disruption to the students had Roosevelt been chosen for closure.

The City of Prince Rupert is the latest group heading to court over the Watson Island situation, with the city filing a statement of defence and counter claim against Sun Wave in British Columbia Supreme Court. The move is the city's response to a lawsuit filed by Sun Wave on February 1st, which outlined the company's concerns over an access agreement which the company described as impractical, unresaonable and unfair. The City refutes that belief and is seeking a declaration that it is the lawful and registered owner of the lands and is seeking back rent from September 2009 when it became the owner of the property after Sun Wave failed to pay the 6 million dollar tax bill it owned from upaid property tax.

A behind the scenes look at Prince Rupert's centennial musical, is provided in the Wednesday edition as we learn more about The Story of Raven; the Dream Lives On, which takes to the Lester Centre stage on Thursday night at 8 pm. The three night run of the local creation concludes on Saturday.   

The Sports section features a look at the preparations of the Prince Rupert figure skating club as they get set for Nizutnee - the annual competition this year taking place in Houston. And some background is provided on the four latest Rupert selections named  for the Northwest 16 and under Best ever hockey squad, the four competed for spots in Houston at an evaluation camp  last weekend.

(Daily News archive Items for Wednesday, March 24)

With heavy hearts, school board closes Westview
City files counter claim against Sun Wave
The Dream lives on...
Award winning performer visits North Coast schools
Kitkatla- look how far they've come 

The Northern View
MPs want tankers banned from North coast -- NDP MP Nathan Cullen weighs in on the debate over oil tanker traffic on the North coast, outlining the details of a private members bill introduced in the House of Commons on Wednesday (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Coast First Nations reject Northern Gateway-- Some details on the announcement that First Nations on the North Coast are joining in a coalition with others, that won't be supporting the bid by Enbridge to build a pipeline across the province to a terminal that would be built in Kitimat (see article  here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Federal NDP call for formal Tanker Moratorium off North Coast-- A review of the plans of the Federal NDP to introduce a private members bill to seek a moratorium on tanker traffic off the north coast of BC (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Prince Rupert's Ecole Westview To Close in 2011-- A look at the announcement from School District 52 to close the west end school Ecole Westview in 2011 (see article here)

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North 
No new items were posted to the Daybreak site on Wednesday

Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. The most recently posted items for this week can be found on the weekly archive for Daybreak North click here 

Daily News, front page headline story 
With heavy hearts, school board closes Westview 
By George T. Baker  
The Daily News 
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Someone’s heart was going to be broken. It was only a matter of whose.

By the 2011-12 school year, Ecole Westview closes. Roosevelt Park Elementary remains open. Port Edward Elementary is still unresolved.

As the trustees voted on each issue, they were all given a chance to speak about why they would vote to close or save a school. As they spoke, some of the trustees cried.

“I am speaking against the motion to close [Roosevelt School],” said Trustee Louisa Sanchez in between tears. “I am very emotional and I have not slept for days, but I just keep picturing all those [Roosevelt students] walking in the rain and going in separate directions. I cannot, with all my heart, close Roosevelt School.”

The first school to receive its third and final reading was Port Edward Elementary. Trustees had met with District of Port Edward councillors the day before and were given a reading of the report the district had commissioned on saving their school.

While the details of the report were not revealed last night, the school board felt that they had to give Port Edward more time. And they felt comfortable doing so because the Ministry of Education would not include Port Edward Elementary in the capacity count for School District 52’s five-year capital plan.

Port Edward Mayor Dave MacDonald told the Daily News that district council would be talking to the school board about what steps to take right away.

 “Our feet are still held to the fire,” said MacDonald. “We don’t have a lot of time, but hopefully working together we can find a solution. This has been terrible. It has pitted neighbour against neighbour.”

To some, that is exactly how last night felt.

When the school board read the third and final readings regarding the closure of Roosevelt, the emotions were plain on the faces of each trustee.

Trustee Bart Kuntz was the only trustee who voted to close Roosevelt. He based that choice on the fact that he wanted to see a greater mix of students, vulnerable or not, amongst the different schools in Prince Rupert.

“This decision tonight has been the hardest decision we have made in four years. Doing my due diligence, I have heard about the vulnerability of the students at Roosevelt. The staff there have shown the dedication needed,” said Kuntz. “[But] I believe that the other schools in our school district can take those programs on. And I believe that we would be better served to spread the vulnerable children around.”

Trustee Leonard Alexcee couldn’t live with that.

 “If we close Roosevelt Park School then I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror – simple as that,” explained Alexcee.

Roosevelt, which repeatedly scores in the bottom of the province’s Foundational Skills Assessment Test, is also home to several programs that are trying to heal one of the province’s most fractured communities.

The trustees defeated the motion to close Roosevelt in a vote of six-to-one.

“I never want to be in this position again,” said Kuntz.

That left Westview.

As the city’s top public school when it comes to academic achievement, the school had been a beacon of program success for the parents who enrolled their children in French Immersion.

However, trustees could not balance that out with Roosevelt’s vulnerable children.

Trustees voted five-to-two to close the school. Next year will be the last year Ecole Westview is open. The Kindergarten to Grade 5 French Immersion program will then be moved to Roosevelt, with the middle school picking up Grades 6 to 8, and Charles Hays Secondary School housing Grades 9 to 12. Those in the English catchments will now attend Pineridge Elementary Kindergarten to Grade 5.

Trustee Russell Wiens spoke about the conversations he’d heard around town - that if Westview closed, parents would pull their kids out of the French immersion program. He thought that was very harmful.

“I look at the very few children who walk to Westview and the parental support involved in that school that is vital to education,” said Wiens, who felt the transition would be easier for Westview children than Roosevelt kids.

“It is unfortunate that our school district has to close a school. But I believe in the long term this will be the in the best interest of the children.”

Janet Beil, whose two children both graduated from Westview, voted against the motion to close the school, just as she had voted against closing Roosevelt. She did not feel that the ministry would pay for the planned new middle school that would replace the one that will open in 2011-12 at Prince Rupert Secondary School.

 “As I sit here tonight, I don’t want to close any school,” Beil told the crowd.

 “A lot of us think that its just a roof over our heads, but each school is unique. I do not believe the ministry will pay for a new middle school. This is why I will not support this motion.”

The last word of the evening went to board chair Tina Last. She rationalized that if the board did nothing they would eventually place the children and the communities in a worse position.

However, remembering the school closures in the past, she believed that the emotional experience the school district has gone through over the past three months would soon be simply ashes of memory - and that quality education will continue under the new arrangement.

“Ten years, after the closing of King Edward Elementary, I can’t remember why I opposed its closure. The quality educators are in each single building in our school district – not just one.”

 When the board passed the motion to close Ecole Westview, none of the parents sitting in the multi-purpose room of Charles Hays Secondary School said a word.

 If they felt relief it was not evident. If their hearts were breaking they largely kept it to themselves.

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