Parents with children in public schools are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief now that Education Minister Wayne Scott has decided against closing or merging schools, if only for the new school year.

The Minister announced several proposed changes to the public school system at a news conference yesterday. But closing or merging schools was not one of them.

“The school reorganisation (SCORE) report is a valuable piece of work that has brought heightened attention to a number of challenges facing our public school system, including the physical infrastructure of school buildings,” said Mr Scott.

“The findings of the SCORE Report revealed a wealth of data, information, findings and recommendations that identify great possibilities for improving our public school system.

“Nonetheless, what is essential at this point is determining a clear direction, of what we envision for our public school system, is needed first.

“I believe that the priority is not to close schools at this time, but changes are needed in order to provide a better service for our children,” he added.

The Minister also pledged his “commitment for our children and to the people of Bermuda” to keep the public informed, “as much as possible” moving forward. And while schools closures are not entirely off the table, there will be no closures in the year ahead.

Minister’s Full Statement:

Good afternoon everyone,

Today, I will announce my decision on school reorganization.

In my deliberations on school reorganization, I found the task of making a decision very challenging as I reflected on the many submissions received from our children, our parents, school PTAs, school alumni, our teachers, principals and concerned members of our community. I have been heartened from reading the array of expressions about our public school education system. So, I say thank you to our stakeholders for your patience as I took the time to digest the content of each submission that was received.

The feedback has been immense and thoughtful. The submissions included frank views, different ideas, detailed analyses, critiques, alternative suggestions, insightful concepts and, heartfelt testimonies from our school communities. I found that the narrative that has emerged from the consultation is quite different from some of the prevailing perceptions of our public school system. Children are having rich educational experiences that have helped to make schools important to them, important to their parents and to our communities. It is because of this, that I believe we as a country have to do better; and we still need to do more for our children.

The school reorganisation (SCORE) report is a valuable piece of work that has brought heightened attention to a number of challenges facing our public school system, including the physical infrastructure of school buildings. The findings of the SCORE Report revealed a wealth of data, information, findings and recommendations that identify great possibilities for improving our public school system. Nonetheless, what is essential at this point is determining a clear direction, of what we envision for our public school system, is needed first.

I believe that the priority is not to close schools at this time, but changes are needed in order to provide a better service for our Children.

Of all the many responsibilities of government, the security of all and the education of children are paramount. Citizens may thrive in a secure  democracy, providing they are sufficiently well educated to do so. The provision of educational services requires public support and must outlast the limited term of government administrations and the dictates of party politics. The education of our children cannot be held hostage to such restraints. Education is a lifetime’s commitment.

The direction moving forward will begin around 5 areas:

1. Develop a Strategic Plan for the public school system, inclusive of a review of the organizational structure of the Department of Education;

2. Ensure that all primary schools are equipped with holistic programmes and services that include music, art, physical education, etc;

3. Further develop and execute on the schedule for the improvement of the exterior and interior of all school buildings, with the safety and health of our students being a critical priority;

4. Relocate preschools to primary schools where feasible; and

5. Explore the repurposing of one of our schools as an Alternative Learning Centre for the provision of services for students needing alternative learning. A secondary benefit of this option could be that the Ministry of Education is housed within this repurposed facility, ensuring that the people in charge of our children are physically located with our children.

We will begin the process of engaging stakeholders on this option, and putting together plans to address all of these areas.

These 5 areas will provide the building blocks for our way forward. My commitment for our Children and to the people of Bermuda is to keep everyone informed, as much as possible, as we look to move forward.

As I’ve always contended, it is about our Children, and I will continue to be guided by the mantra, Our Children First.

By Ceola Wilson

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