CORNER BROOK — It takes a community to educate a child, says the executive director of the Community Education Network.
That was the basis behind years of what Sharon Park considered a successful Communities in Schools program that is now in danger of disappearing from the education system in western Newfoundland.
The organization recently learned its co-ordinators for the program will no longer be funded through the provincial Job Creation Partnerships program.
“We didn’t want schools to be deemed just a place where children go and get an education,” Park said. “The numeracy and literacy pieces are critical, but they need to be connected at the community level to other resources. We need to be able to bring them a lot more information than they get from just the reading, writing and math component.”
The program has been in operation since 1991, offered in 17 west coast schools this past year. Without funding for co-ordinators in those schools, the program will no longer exist — at least in its current form.
The program led to various initiatives in different schools. The co-ordinators often helped organize breakfast clubs, tutoring and extracurricular activities, and school and community-related presentations involving such topics as bullying and violence prevention. It was an avenue where students, who do not always fit in with regularly scheduled activities and events, could find other things to participate in, said Park.
It was focused on bringing community resources into the education system, but also a way for the community to realize its responsibility in educating youth. Through the co-ordinator positions, it also provided employment and work-skills training for unemployed individuals.
Park said the Community Education Network board will now review the program, discuss its options, and see what direction it will take. She said the Communities in School program worked closely with the Community Youth Network, so there may be some aspects of the program which can be delivered through that.
However, as of Wednesday, the Communities in Schools program appeared to be defunct for this year,
“It is very much disappointing,” she said. “We really believe in the whole concept around community and school coming together to help our children.”
Park said the informal email notification from the Department of Advanced Education and Skills was inappropriate. She feels there should have been discussions held on reasons why the funding was no longer approved.
She hopes some resolve can be found.
“We cannot give up on the idea of connecting community and school,” she said. “I think that it is critical.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Parsons, the Liberal opposition critic for Advanced Education and Skills, said schools are left in limbo as a result, with already overburdened teachers having to fill the void.
In 2009, the province assumed responsibility for the design and delivery of approximately $133 million annually in employment insurance-funded employment benefits and support measures. Parsons said local organizations speak to unprecedented wait times and lack of communication since the province took control.
“Government’s administration of this federal funding is an embarrassment,” he said. “We witnessed tourist operators close early this season because their JCP (Job Creation Partnership program) was denied this year. Now, we are seeing the school system impacted with a loss of this resource.
“It is time for (Advanced Education and Skills) Minister (Joan) Burke to communicate clearly to the public what the future of the JCP program is.”
Burke was not available for comment as of deadline Wednesday.