The group of Northern Peninsula residents, protesting the impending closure of Bayview Regional Collegiate and the busing of the Grade 7-12 students to St. Anthony, put an early end to the Western School District board meeting Monday evening.
There were eight people from the area in attendance who watched the regular public board meeting. Afterward, the board had scheduled a short, closed-session meeting to deal with some confidential issues.
The protestors — who were not permitted to speak for the second consecutive school board meeting they attended, which follows the guidelines of these meetings — refused to leave the building. The board decided to postpone the in-camera session.
Following a public meeting in January, after which it was clear the board was standing firm on closing the school and busing students to St. Anthony, the residents claimed they would continue protesting the decision made in 2008.
Dale Colbourne, who has two grandchildren in the school system, said the board and senior staff have still not responded to the concerns they have expressed over the past number of months. The St. Lunaire-Griquet town councillor said it was clear from public consultations in 2008 the board had made the decision prior to speaking to the people. At that time, Colbourne said she submitted two pages of questions, and those queries have still not been answered.
She said the area residents are not happy with how they are being treated and feel they are being ignored.
“They are refusing to answer our questions, they are refusing to deal with us, and they are just like a bunch of pompous asses that just think we are warts on the ass of society,” she said.
Colbourne said the board and members of the provincial government are elected officials who have a duty to answer to their constituents, but neither group has done so. She said the group will continue to lobby the provincial government to revisit the decision.
Meanwhile, Ross Elliott, director of education with the Western School District, said the board decided cancelling its in-camera session was the best decision. He said the postponed session was not a “major” disruption for the board.
“We have some individuals who have strong feelings about an issue, and it was just the view of the board at the time that indeed the business we had remaining could be conducted at another time,” he said.
Public consultations were held in 2008, and the board debated reconsidering the decision in January 2010 and decided it would not do so. Earlier this year, the board again decided to maintain its decision to close the school and bus the students to St. Anthony. Elliott said the board is firm on its decision.
The director of education said it is now time to focus on the implementation of the change to the new school in St. Anthony. Once the new administrators and leaders are put in place, he said the issues pertaining to things such as transportation will be addressed.
As for the continued protests, Elliott said he would prefer not to have dissatisfied members in communities.
“We would prefer we could all move into this together with the best educational interest of all of the students in the new school,” he said. “It would be our hope that over time the communities involved, like the other communities in the area whose children go to school in St. Anthony, would work towards the implementation of the best possible school we can create together.”