Parents frustrated by the closure of the Edmonton Catholic school and its Polish bilingual program


Parents of students attending St. Basil’s Catholic Elementary and Secondary School are frustrated by the decision to close the school and its Polish bilingual program.

The decision, along with the decision to close the junior high program at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was made Feb. 23 at a meeting of the Edmonton Catholic School Division (ECSD) school board.

“I am disappointed that ECSD planning was unwilling to work with us more on a more viable and less permanent solution,” said Emilia Ziomko, president of the Saint-Basile Parent Council.

Ziomko, who moved to Canada from Poland as a child, has three children currently enrolled at Edmonton Central School at 11510 102nd St.

“They learned a lot about Polish culture, Polish heritage and history as well as the language,” she said. “So it’s going to be very disappointing that they can’t continue that.”

Emilia Ziomko, president of the parents’ council of Saint-Basile, is disappointed by the closure of the school. Her three children are currently enrolled in her programs. (Provided by Emilia Ziomko)

A press release issued by the school division cites a multi-year decline in enrollment, as well as transportation and operational deficits as reasons for the closure of St. Basil and its Polish program.

“As outlined in the school’s closure proposal, the Polish Bilingual Program has not been financially sustainable for several years despite the division’s marketing and recruiting efforts,” he said.

“It is important that the programs of choice are financially viable so as not to negatively impact the resources available to all students in the Division,” council chair Sandra Palazzo said in the statement.

The school district estimates that 192 students will be affected by the closure of St. Basil and will be looking for a new school in the fall.

“Kids are participating in this program from all over the city. We have kids, like my kids who are from Spruce Grove. We have kids from Leduc, Summerside and the Northeast, etc.” Ziomko said.

“Every corner of town and they’re all going to be separated and dispersed to their own neighboring schools, some of which are already overcapacity.”

Parent Przemyslaw Simon Kursa, whose son is enrolled in second grade, participated in the school board’s public engagement process.

He hoped that the Polish program would at least be transferred to another school and that his son Anthony could be transferred there.

But in a report, the board cites parent feedback received in February 2020 that it said did not support relocating the program.

“We’ve tried so many things and it’s almost like falling on deaf ears,” said Kursa, who is also a member of the school’s parent council.

St. Basil’s parent council had been involved in efforts to keep the school open through the school division’s engagement process. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Kursa has not given up yet as he continues to search for another suitable school for his son.

“We’re trying everything right now. We’re also opening a line of communication with the public school system to see if they would be interested,” he said.

“So we’ll be asking parents, ‘Are you interested? If we want to keep this program, would you be willing to move?'”

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