Author: Elisabeth Sahlmueller – Contributor
Most of the time while at M.A Riffel High School, I was proud to call myself a Riffel Royal. Even after graduating, I am proud to be a Riffel Alumni. So after hearing that the Regina Catholic School Board (RCSB) has decided and begun removing Riffel’s courtyard, I am extremely disappointed and upset, not only with their decision, but also because students and staff were never asked for their opinion.
Riffel’s courtyard is an outside space, open to the sky, located on the second floor. Students love this area because they can sit outside, do schoolwork, eat lunch or simply hang with friends. However, the RCSB would rather see it destroyed and turned into an extra area for arts programs.
I have nothing against expanding the art program at Riffel. However, I don’t believe it should come from the destruction of the courtyard, one of the best areas of the school. The RCSB seems to believe that more space is needed for art, band, and choral programs due to increased participation. Where are these results coming from? Less than two years ago, these programs had low participation and this project has apparently been undergoing consideration for a year and a half, but at that time these programs still had low participation. This isn’t because these programs are unpopular among the students, but rather, because of students’ busy schedules. Maybe the RCSB thinks that more space will spearhead higher participation, but I doubt this notion.
When I spoke to a representative of the RCSB, he told me that removing the courtyard was a good idea because it’s an “under-utilized space.” Hello, welcome to Saskatchewan, we only have about three-four months of warm weather during the school year. So, because students have limited time to enjoy the space, it should be taken away? I don’t think so! Just because it is not always the busiest area of the school does not mean it’s not a well-liked area. The staff room is sometimes “under utilized,” but there are never plans to eliminate or reduce that space and for good reason. The same logic should apply to the courtyard.
A petition to save the courtyard was started in June by a current student and their older sibling, an alumni. Many upset students signed, upon hearing that the courtyard would be removed. The RCSB began demolition before the school year ended and even after receiving the petition sheets with over 250 signatures, they chose to ignore the students. Teachers were also upset because many took students outside for science experiments, work, or to enjoy the sunshine. Although many would’ve liked to sign, doing so would’ve been a threat to their career.
It’s sad that we live in an advanced world technologically, but no other alternatives were considered first. A retractable roof would allow arts programs to use the space in the winter and students and staff could still enjoy the space in the warmer months. However, if money continues to be wasted on useless TVs then there will never be enough money in the budget for this.
Why weren’t the students asked? Whether the courtyard is there or not has no impact on the RCSB, but it does affect Riffel’s students and staff, so their opinions should’ve been considered. Even with concrete plans, the students have not been told. Why? Don’t they have the right to know what is going on with their school? How could this project be under consideration for a year and a half without asking the students for their opinion? I would’ve said no in a heartbeat if I had been asked.
Removing Riffel’s courtyard is a mistake. I’m glad that I enjoyed the courtyard during my years. The RCSB will likely never realize their mistake, but I sincerely hope they receive a lot of backlash. It’s sad that although we may live in a democratic country, where people have the right to speak and vote on matters impacting them, the Regina Catholic School Board thinks they are above this policy.