It's elementary, my dear: Red Bay parents want local school to be K-6 only

Parents in Red Bay have taken an approach to their children's education that might surprise some people, but they say they're doing it for the betterment of the students in town.

Parents have asked the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District to reconfigure their current all-grade school, Basque Memorial, to be a K-6 school instead.

Students from Grade 7 to Level III would be bused to Labrador Straits Academy, the school in L'Anse au Loup, about 50 kilometres away.

Vicki Hancock, a parent and member of the school council in Red Bay, said they believe it's the right thing to do, despite the fact many towns have fought against busing students long distances.

"We want our kids to have the opportunity that most kids have to go to a bigger school, and have more academic and social development opportunities."

Submitted by Vicki Hancock

Unanimous support

Hancock said all parents signed on to the letter she wrote to the NLESD, asking for the review of the Red Bay school.

The disctrict's board of trustees voted in early June to undertake that review, to consider the programming needs of students at the intermediate and high school levels, with a possibility of a change that could take effect as early as this fall.

Submitted by Vicki Hancock

Right now, there are only two students in the higher grades, and they're both currently completing Grade 8. Another child would enter Grade 7 at the school in the fall of 2019.

Hancock said the only option of students past Grade 6 is to do coursework almost entirely online, via distance learning.

She said they're missing out on social interaction, and on courses such as music and a competitive gym program.

"I mean they can't play basketball or soccer like they would with people of their own age."

Different way of thinking

In Newfoundland and Labrador, it's often the school district that initiates any plan to reconfigure a school, and the idea is often met with opposition and discontent from parents, as in the case of Swift Current and Conche.

Hancock said she knows that's the more common response, rather than parents getting the ball rolling, and she understands parents' concerns about children travelling long distances in stormy weather or over rough roads.

"But, for us, we're looking at our kids' point of view," she said.

"I would rather for them to be around other kids of their age."

Hancock said there are plenty of reasons why being with more students in the same grade level is a good idea.

She said the health program, for example, which includes education about sexual health, is currently taught in a class where younger children are present, so she believes the topic is not adequately covered.

Google Maps

With regard to travel in the winter, Hancock said the school in Red Bay is generally closed for the same snow days as Labrador Straits Academy in L'Anse au Loup, so she doesn't believe students will be put in danger or miss extra class time as a result.

Not a snap decision

Hancock said parents in Red Bay reflected on the idea of downgrading the K-12 school for more than a year before writing to the school district with its request.

"We just come to the realization that we want more for our kids," she said.

Heather May, the district's director of strategic planning, policy and communications, told CBC the board expects the review to be completed by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

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