WATCH AND weep in a heart-rending viral video in Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Twitter made by Chevalier School kinder and grade school students. The school is certainly to be closed before June in the wake of a land dispute between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Fernando (RCASF) headed by Archbishop Florentino Lavarias and the school administrator Missionaries of Sacred Heart (MSC). Shutting it down could be the final nail in the coffin for the 60-year old school.
The looming closure— which will leave 1,300 students from kindergarten to Grade 12 in limbo and scrambling for seats in other schools, and 89 teachers and non-teaching personnel will be rendered jobless — highlights the turmoil that befalls children when the lights are permanently turned off in their classrooms. Students are forced to leave behind friends and teachers they have grown up with.
Nancesita Villaroman, a mother of four children said she was stunned when she learned the school would close abruptly without a contingency plan amid the pandemic. “For my kids, it’s terrible and it’s really frustrating, I’m trying to figure out alternative education plans. Where’s the compassion?” Villaroman asked.
“Instead of shutting it down, how about finding a way to keep it open?” Former faculty and class adviser Bona Rodriguez Castaneda said. “Where should they go? What are they going to do if you shut it down? Please have a heart to the plea of these children. They love the school, it’s their second home. They love their teachers and classmates. Please don’t turn your back on them.”
Senior kinder Jeffrey begged Lavarias not to close the school because he wanted to stay until grade 12. ”Please, please don’t close our school. I don’t want to leave my classmates, I will miss them and even my teachers.” Teary-eyed Noah, a grade 3 student, appealed in the video, “Archbishop Lavarias I’m asking you a favor together with other students please do not shut down our second home. Our school is helping us a lot, our teachers and employees as well. We still want to see each other after this pandemic God willing, thank you po. God bless you.” Max, also in primary school, also begged Lavarias not to close the school because it’s her second home and she will miss her classmates and teachers. Grade 3 honor student Kara Alexis, who was even in complete school uniform, was speechless and burst out crying in the video. “How many times in a day was she going to be crying? This is heartbreaking, our children don’t even deserve this. We are all struggling to adapt to the new normal of learning. Let’s spare them from this distraction, their studies shouldn’t be disrupted. Please don’t take away their future merely because of a land dispute issue. Why now in the midst of the pandemic?” lamented by hundreds of viewers of the 3-minute video.
Former alumnus and a lawyer by profession Paul Yusi wittingly commented: “If the RCASF and MSC are really serious in continuing and providing education, despite the ruling of the Roman Curia nullifying the old long term lease and shortening it, they should just simply ignore it and stay until the Vatican sends its Swiss guards probably acting as sheriffs to enforce the ruling and any eviction order.” The RCASF is recovering the three-hectare property after it won a lawsuit with a church court in Rome allowing it to rescind a contract of lease with the MSC which has been running the school since 1958.
At a second public hearing of the committee on education chaired by City Councilor Alfie Bonifacio, students, teachers, parents and alumni pleaded to Lavarias to keep their school open. They argued that the school had fostered a safe and nurturing community, which pushed students academically. In his letter to Bonifacio, however, Lavarias skipped the hearing and reasoned out that “he is a senior citizen and medically considered to be immuno-compromised and that a number of the Clergy of the Archdiocese have tested positive for the COVID-virus.” Because the school’s status is ‘racing against the clock’ Bonifacio calendared another hearing and requested Archbishop Lavarias to join over a video conference via Zoom and to send an authorized representative or legal counsel on February 22 to discuss this urgent issue because school operations are due to expire before June this year.