April 19, 2024

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The director of the El Carme school in Barcelona says goodbye to the students this Thursday, before finally closing.
The director of the El Carme school in Barcelona says goodbye to the students this Thursday, before finally closing.Gianluca Battista

The Carme school in Barcelona has four years left to turn 100 years old. And she won’t anymore. This Thursday was the last day that the students stepped into their classrooms, ran through the corridors or played in the patio. The school – concerted – closes permanently, drowned by economic problems, with the lament that a family legacy of three generations is lost. “Closing a school is not pleasant, but it is sad to close your grandmother’s, the one that has formed half the neighborhood, children and grandchildren of former students have come here, it has been a great impact for the neighborhood,” laments the director Montserrat Pinyol , granddaughter of the founder.

The school was created in 1927 by Elena Girol, a teacher from Ronda (Málaga), who welcomed the first students into her own home. Yes, students, because at first she only accepted girls. “She went family by family to convince them to let the girls study, she tried to get them out of the factories. She believed that all girls had to know how to read and study”, says Pinyol.

Over the years, the school grew, became coeducational, and expanded its facilities. But in 2020 the confinement gave them a deadly blow. “We were doing well, but the pandemic was a difficult setback to overcome. We had a large Chinese community that left for their country, and most of them have not returned”, Pinyol interjects. Added to this is the large number of vulnerable students they have enrolled. “These students are occupying a place, but they do not pay for it, and the money that comes from the Generalitat does not cover the expenses,” she adds. As a measure to combat school segregation, Education established from this course a reservation of places so that subsidized schools also assume part of this student body, with compensation of 988 euros per year per student, an amount far from what families usually pay of the concerted

A teacher with her students at the El Carme school in Barcelona, ​​on June 12.
A teacher with her students at the El Carme school in Barcelona, ​​on June 12.Gianluca Battista

In addition to this, the school must also assume part of the cost of the school canteen for these students, since the scholarships cover a maximum amount -6.54 euros-, but the price of the menu in the concerted one is usually higher, so the The difference is borne by the center if the family cannot pay.

All this, added to the drop in the birth rate, which is also punishing the concerted ones, has given the final straw to the center. “We are neither the first nor the last school to close,” warns Pinyol. And why does El Carme close, is it the only one that closes? Many privately owned centers with this student profile have the same problems, but in this case it is a family school, without a large religious order behind it to help them.

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Before the fateful, they tried to negotiate with the Barcelona Education Consortium to switch to the public network, but they were unsuccessful: “They are looking for buildings to build schools, but we are spread out in four buildings, and it doesn’t matter. In addition, there is no shortage of public places in the district. They have laid out a red carpet for us and all the facilities for us to close. At no time have they asked us if they could help us with anything”, laments the director.

Despite the disruption caused by the closure, the announcement was made sufficiently in advance -the Administration was notified in October and the families in February- and it has been possible to relocate the almost 200 students in the desired options: 60% will go to the Maristas, who have expanded lines, and most of the rest to other subsidized centers. “It’s sad to leave here because it has lasted many years,” laments Marc, who is in 5th grade and is the principal’s grandson, during a recess break. His classmates nod, and assure that they will miss their classmates and teachers. Others, like Emma, ​​are also optimistic. “I’ve been here for many years and I don’t want to leave, but we also have to change,” she says. It will not be so easy for almost twenty teachers at the center, who will have to look for work.

Elementary students at the El Carme school in Barcelona.
Elementary students at the El Carme school in Barcelona.Gianluca Battista

Changes and more changes

The rest of the students and teachers in Catalonia close a course this Thursday, marked by changes: it began by opening the new school calendar, advancing the start of classes by a week and implementing an intensive day in September that was compensated with a few afternoons of educational leisure , with monitors, which was a total fiasco and cost almost 12 million, with which Education was forced not to repeat the experience next year.

But the protests that the school calendar had generated were deactivated, after the Department accepted, four days before the start of the course, to reduce one teaching hour to the teaching staff, which implied the incorporation of some 3,500 teachers in January. However, what seemed like a good measure, was not freed from controversy and complaints from teachers, because this forced them to redo all the schedules -especially tedious in secondary- just three months after starting the course.

The academic year has also been marked by other novelties such as the progressive implementation of the new school curricula -with more competency-based learning-, the decrease in the ratios in Infant3 or the free Infant stage2 in public nurseries, but others have not changed , despite the efforts of the Department, such as the application of 25% of Spanish in the classrooms in schools with a judicial ruling or the financing of Opus Dei schools.

The course has not been freed from numerous controversies, from the problems of air conditioning in the classrooms; the slowness of the FP enrollment process, which caused thousands of students to start classes weeks later; the lack of specialist teachers in secondary and FP; the poor results of students in essential areas such as Mathematics or reading comprehension; or the stumbling blocks in the great process of converting long-term temporary employees into civil servants.

All this has precipitated the fall of Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray after two years as director, and the entry of Anna Simó, who is expected by all these pending folders for the new academic year, and who is expected to discuss her priorities in plenary session special on Education that will take place next Tuesday in Parliament.

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