This story caught my eye because, well, it's my old elementary school. The first year it opened, back in 1976, I entered Grade 1. I graduated from there in 1982, thus proving I'm getting up there in age, apparently.
Virgina Park was never meant to last this long. It's been upgraded over the years, but at its heart it's a series of interconnected temporary buildings. I think the original shelf life on the school was about 10 years, at which point it was going to be replaced. You may note the school has now been opened 35 years. They also haven't been exactly been easy years. Virgina Park Elementary has been ridden pretty hard over the last 35 years. Yes, most schools do get a rough ride from the students, but Virgina Park can be a rough neighbourhood.
I know some people get all indignant over that assessment, but I moved there in 1975 and grew up there. Hell, I was living there as recently as 2005. My father delivered mail there most of his life. You can paint her up and get outraged when people insinuate there might be a hard crowd there, but the truth of it is there are rough areas. To be fair, there are also some very nice areas. Virginia Park is kind of weird like that.
Now, Peter's argument is the school board tried to sneak this through. It certainly looks like it and given what little I know about how school boards operate, it wouldn't surprise me all that much. However, the other argument is that Virginia Park was being discriminated against because it is a lower income area and the new location for the school would be located in a higher income area. There's also the matter of wanting more community schools, so kids don't have to travel so far.
So let's tackle some of these. And to be honest, I do have some fondness for Virginia Park. I had some good teachers there and I liked the place. I could walk home in a few minutes, which is clearly one of the major points parents are trying to push home. Plus, I don't yearn for its firey destruction like I do with Booth Memorial.
My first question is simply this...what are the demographics? There were certainly a lot of kids in Virginia Park when I was going there, even if some of there were shipped off to the Catholic school over in East Meadows (ah the senseless idiocy of the denominational school boards). But that's when I was growing up, where there were a lot more kids in Newfoundland and Virginia Park was a new subdivision.
However, there are a lot fewer students in Newfoundland and that number has been dipping all the time. Plus, there is the question of where those kids are living. Simply, if there are fewer children living in the Park now and that has been a steady downward trend, well, I'm not sure you can justify building a new school there.
Yes, community schools are nice, but talk to the parents in Southern Harbour who have to put their five year old kids on a bus to send them to Arnold's Cove in the middle of winter. People in rural Newfoundland have less than no sympathy when they read stories like this. To quote what I'm sure several of my friends out there would say, "suck it up, buttercup."
The fiscal reality is that community schools are not always going to be possible. Yes, it would be nice if all kids could walk back and forth to school. Some parents get to have that luxury. But not all of them do. There's just no way the provincial government can afford it.
If Virginia Park Elementary still has a growing school population and the demographic trends show the flow of students going to the school is going to remain stable or grow over the next decade or so, then yes, they absolutely have a legitimate argument for keeping the school in the area. But I didn't hear Peter make that point, so I wonder if those stats aren't backing him up.
If the demographic trend shows more kids in the Stavanger Drive area over the next decade, with Virginia Park decreasing, well, then that's a bitter pill, and I'm sorry to see my old school have to go. But that strikes me as being the fair thing to do. We all can't get what we want, sorry to say...
1. Behind the house (live) - Neko Case
2. Snowblind - Rob Thomas
3. Many shades of black - The Raconteurs*
4. The night before - The Beatles
5. Won't get fooled again - The Who