I did notice a familiar line in the budget. The government has allocated $1 million to continue planning for a replacement for Virginia Park Elementary.
That is an item that gets carried over from year to year. In 2010 budget it was phrased as "money to support a commitment ot build a replacement school for Virginia Parke Elementary". In Budget 2009 Highlight's, VPE was listed as part of the $800 million for infrastructure investments. - "An extension to accommodate new classrooms and replacement of the gymnasium at Virginia Park Elementary" was part of $121.5 million set aside for school infrastructure. In February 2009, the Provincial government announced a $800 million investment in infrastructure for the 2009-10 fiscal year including - "Extension to replace portable classrooms and replacement of gymnasium – Virginia Park Elementary"
And they (government and the school board) wonder why I feel like we are stuck in an infinite loop. They wonder why I have no faith in what they tell me? Why many residents of the East End feel lied too and misled!
Considering the roller coaster ride that has been the ten year struggle to get a replacement school constructed, it is premature to celebrate a line in this year's budget. We are right back to where it all started in 1999, when the Eastern Avalon School Board announced plans to close Virginia Park Elementary. Promises of a rebuild, then a new school, were all designed to buy time and to move the school out.
The Chair of the board, Ford Rice had the audacity to tell me that if Virginia Park was selected as the site it would be a small school. In other words, if you care about your children and better programs, look to go elsewhere. Again, I say why do we have to accept that?
For reasons that have never been explained to me, Virginia Park Elementary's catchment area has never reflected the community around it. Instead, successive boards implemented policies that ensured the little neighborhood school would fail. I think if anyone wanted to look at the socioeconomic spread in the east end of St. John's, they would see a pattern, and that pattern will show you that there has been an attempt to marginalize this school and eventually close it out. Have a look at our CRT scores which startlingly reflect the reality of this exercise in social engineering.
For the record, I think the numbers count. Perhaps someone can explain to me why successive school boards have not zoned school children that reside within walking distance of VPE to the VPE catchment zone? The population and the students are in the area but something is preventing a rezoning? What is it?
Who is responsible for this on-going backward exercise in social segregation?
The silence is deafening - time for a cabinet minister to rise up in the House of Assembly and condemn me once again for raising the issue of social segregation, which is at the heart of the replacement school in Virginia Park.