St. John’s Says No To Closure

WECDSB trustees hold a meeting regarding a possible school closure in west Windsor on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Caleb Workman)

Parents and students of St. John Catholic Elementary School stood against the recommendation of the Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board to close the school.

The closure would involve the Kindergarten to Grade 6 students from both St. John and St. James Catholic Elementary School sites being re-located to the St. James location. The Grade 7s and 8s would be sent to the St. John site in the short-term, eventually moving to Assumption College Catholic High School. This would require for the board to both request funding to prepare Assumption for the Grade 7s and 8s and properly separate the elementary and secondary school elements in the same building when completed.

Kerri Stephenson, member of the St. John Catholic School Advisory Committee, says the proposal to merge the Grade 7 and 8 classes at St. John is rejected by both communities.

“We believe that the students should go to Assumption when Assumption is ready,” says Stephenson. “Whether it be a JK to 12 or the middle school – whatever the trustees decide. We believe that it is not fair for the St. James students to come over to our school.”

According to a survey done by the St. John advisory committee, 39 families said 57 students from St. John would not move to St. James but relocate to Westgate Public School.

Emerson Valley, another member of the St. John advisory committee, says if those students switch schools it will cost the board around $500,000 a year – $5 million in ten years.

“That really is an opportunity cost,” says Valley. “If we lose those students, we’re going to lose $5-million.”

Valley says the joining of schools is inevitable but having a JK to 12 school would enhance the move and save a lot of students from moving. He says they’re happy with all that administration is doing for the schools and they have no problem with it but they want to share what they think is the best way of proceeding with their vision.

In their presentation, Stephenson and Valley noted if St. John closes there will be a large portion of the west end unrepresented by a catholic elementary school. On the slide, the section unrepresented covered from Dougal Avenue’s Immaculate Conception School to LaSalle’s Sacred Heart Elementary School, which has four public board schools within that area.

Also presenting were St. John students, Vanessa Stephenson and Kenneth Gerovac, who presented many points as to why they don’t want to have their school closed.

Vanessa, who is also Kerri’s daughter, says she hopes to be able to continue to see the faces she does every day in her last years of grade school.

“I want to be a leader at this school and work with the little kids,” says Vanessa.

The final decision for the west-end public schools will be made by the board April 5.

Chairperson Barbara Holland says all recommendations by the delegations and from the conversation held after the formal meeting will be discussed and brought into factor when making the final decision.

“From now until about the end of March we’re going to be looking for more public input,” says Holland. “We’ll be studying very carefully what we heard tonight, there were some good proposals made.”

Holland says they’re going to work as hard as they can for the people and make the best they can out of the situation the trustees have been given.