News

Kgn school closes after almost a century

Observer Reporter

Wednesday, June 25, 2003    

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THE 93 year-old Catholic-run Holy Rosary Preparatory School on Gibbs Avenue in Eastern Kingston will close its doors at the end of June.

"We are having financial problems, primarily because parents won't meet their indebtedness to the school and the archbishop has made up his mind to close," said Principal Consie Williams, who took over in January.

She said the school, which was operating on a shoe-string budget, needs $8-$10 million a year to operate efficiently.

The situation has worsened over the last four years, school officials said, as parents have refused to pay the $12,950 per term school fee.

"We close as a preparatory school at the end of June and then it will be taken over by the ministry of education," Williams explained to the Observer during yesterday's visit.

It is anticipated that the education ministry will convert the institution into a primary school.

Holy Rosary Prep is now operated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

When contacted, school board chairman, Stephanie Christian, declined to comment on the school's finances and referred the Observer to development secretary, Bridgette Keeting, at the archdiocese. However, Keeting was said to be out of office.

But the problems at the school have, apparently, been widely known for years.

"The school is in a bad, bad financial crisis, even the statutory deductions for employees have not been paid over to government, but the church is going to pick up that part," said Parent Teachers Association (PTA) president, Ann-Marie Lee. "It is for that reason, and bad management too, that the school was left in the red... which has pushed them to take the decision to close the gate of this landmark institution."

Lee now operates the school's canteen free of cost, simply because the school cannot find the money to employ anyone else.

The rundown, dilapidated building, which boasted a student population of 450 four years ago, now has an attendance of 150 with a staff of 12 teachers.

The principal's office mirrors the general neglect, with an antiquated metal desk; a wooden desk with drawers hanging out, tucked into a corner; two old metal cabinets; and dog-eared book-filled cardboard boxes strewn on the floor against a backdrop of dozens of dusty trophies perched on a shelf.

Yesterday, staff members had a tale of frequent money troubles, with the church having to dig deep into its pockets, on more than one occasion, to bail out the school.

Administrators had wanted to close during the Easter term, they said, but had decided against the move, as a mid-term closure may have adversely affected the students.

According to the PTA president, the student population dwindled, at one time, to 35, because of inefficiencies in the management structure before Williams' tenure.

"Parents withdrew their kids, our membership dwindled from 120 to 35 and we struggled to keep our head above the water financially," said Lee, who is also the PTA representative on the school board.

But despite the looming closure, it appears that the blow to students and teachers will be softened.

Holy Rosary Church served teachers notice in February, advising them that their leave and redundancy payments would be paid up. And arrangements have already been made, Williams said, for about 70 per cent of the students to be transferred to Ormsby Hall Primary School on Victoria Avenue for the new school year in September.

Holy Rosary is also trying to help get the remaining 30 per cent of students into other preparatory schools.

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