SUTHERLANDS RIVER – East Pictou Middle School is in a review process with the school board that could end with its doors being closed for good, but community members and parents spoke up Tuesday night at a public meeting to say they want to see their children kept together and close to home.
The East Pictou School Advisory Committee must present a written document to the school board by Feb. 1 containing information to help the school board make an informed decision on whether or not to close East Pictou Middle School.
The School Advisory Committee presented the community with the information from the impact assessment report of the school the board compiled. The report suggested two options for the students at East Pictou Middle School. Option one would see the students stay at East Pictou Middle School. Option two would see grade 7 and 8 students dispersed to Highland Consolidated School, New Glasgow Junior High School, Thorburn Consolidated and Trenton Middle School and the Grade 9 students would go to North Nova Education Centre in New Glasgow.
The room of about 40 community members and parents seemed unanimous in their feelings that they did not want to see their children separated the way they would under option two. They expressed they didn’t want students travelling farther away from the community to attend school or to have students separated from their friends among five different schools. It was also noted that a closure would affect the sense of community in the area.
Andy Thompson, deputy warden of the municipality, was one of those who said he didn’t want to see the board choose option two.
“If you disperse them among four or five schools, it’s not a good situation,” he said. “I truly believe the best hope for rural East Pictou is to make Frank H. a P to 8 school. I think that’s our best option.”
Don Butler, treasurer of the East Pictou Educational Foundation, also thought students should stay in the area.
“It’s difficult to maintain rural communities and it’s going to be even more difficult if students have to go longer distances to be educated,” he said. “I can tell you that Frank H. MacDonald school is a good facility and it has many more years of life in it and that school should make changes within the school to accommodate children until grade eight and then they can go as a group.”
Later on in the meeting, Butler suggested those who want to see Frank H. MacDonald turn into a P to 8 school stand up to show the committee. Almost everyone in the room rose to their feet.
No one at the meeting said they wanted to see the board choose option two.
While turning Frank H. MacDonald into a P to 8 school so the students could stay close to home was not one of the options presented in the impact assessment report, the School Advisory Committee said they would add it in their report to the school board to have it considered.
The next step is for the School Advisory Committee to compile the community’s opinions and present their recommendation to the school board. If the school stays in the review process, the school board must hold a public meeting and make a final decision before March 31.