A major reorganizing of schools in Mount Pearl, Paradise and Goulds is underway.
The Newfoundland and Lab-rador English School District, having finished consulting with school councils in the area, will hold public meetings later this month on proposed changes.
Milton Peach, chairman of the district, said consultations began in October.
“We had, at that time, realized that we had some challenges there that we needed to address,” he said.
The biggest challenge facing the schools, said Peach, is overcrowding, especially at the elementary level.
“Where we are now is to engage the wider school community instead of just the school councils.”
The Goulds school system is a “fairly simple solution,” but a necessary one, said Peach: Goulds Elementary would become a kindergarten to Grade 5 school, St. Kevin’s Junior High would span Grade 6 to Grade 8 (instead of Grade 7 to Grade 9), and St. Kevin’s High School would have Grade 9 and up.
“That would really be not a major change and easy to do, and I think it’s fair to say the people there are very favourable to looking at an easier fit there,” said Peach.
Mount Pearl and Paradise are a little more challenging, said Peach.
“St. Peter’s Elementary in that system is operating overcapacity, and we know that Mount Pearl Senior High, in the very, very near future, will have a similar issue of overcapacity,” he said.
“Coupled in with that, we have French immersion busing challenges in that system, because some students get busing for the total French immersion system, and others don’t.”
The district started with seven options for Mount Pearl schools, which they’ve narrowed down to two: one would involve reconfiguring the schools that feed into each high school, while the other would involve dividing the region into eastern and western schools and feeding all of them into a combined central high school campus of what are now Mount Pearl Intermediate and Mount Pearl Senior High.
“It would be a different concept, but it was one that came to us from the community,” said Peach.
Derek Sullivan, chairman of the St. Peter’s Elementary school council, said he’s pleased to see the district taking steps to address the challenges facing the area’s schools, and praised the consultation done by the district.
“I think there’s merit in discussing all these options,” he said. “I’m not sure that every option will be palatable to everyone involved, but certainly the options that are there, from a St. Peter’s Elementary perspective, they would address some of the most acute concerns that we had around overcrowding. With the options that are being tabled for consideration, you would see a reduction in the school population.”
The district will be taking feedback on the proposals until early March, followed by discussion by the board and then a vote at its April meeting.
“Between the March and April meetings, we will go out again and engage in consultations with the school communities on the feedback we’ve got,” said Peach. “At this point in time, we’ve made no decisions, but we’ve got a great, tremendous amount of feedback from the school councils.”
The district is holding a public meeting about the reconfiguration of the Goulds school system at St. Kevin’s High School tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Public meetings about the Mount Pearl-Paradise school system are scheduled for Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Mount Pearl Intermediate (for the Mount Pearl Senior High system) and Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at O’Donel High School (for the O’Donel system).