Tonight (Tuesday) school board members will have to balance the value of rural schools to students and the communities they’re part of with the dollar value of keeping them open.
A special meeting of the Chignecto Central Regional School Board initially scheduled for Monday night will be held instead tonight to look at the impact assessments prepared for several schools that have been shortlisted as schools to consider for closure. Among them are East Pictou Middle School and River John Consolidated.
Tonight, if the board were to vote on it, some schools could be removed from the path to disappearing. Others could continue on their course to possible closure. Final decisions will be made by the end of March on whether to close the schools.
Vivian Farrell doesn’t have to think about her decision at all. As school board rep for the area that includes River John, she believes firmly in her heart that River John Consolidated should stay in the community and will vote to keep it that way. But how other board members vote she admits is out of her control.
The River John school is unique, she says. There is a family atmosphere and despite its size students still get an excellent education there.
“It ranks high on all these issues,” she said. “The problem is the funding and the fact that it is a costly school to operate and it does need some repairs. The balance will depend on what board members see as important.”
If one were to look solely at numbers, she said it would be an easy decision, you’d close the school. But she hopes people will look at more than that.
“I’m not looking at funding alone,” she said. “There are other factors that certainly outweigh funding. They must be balanced.”
In East Pictou, an idea was put forth during the impact assessment stage of converting Frank H. MacDonald to a Primary to Grade 8 school.
That appeals to the region’s school board rep Marilyn Murray.
“I still need to know a few more things on it, but it would keep everyone in their own community and I think that’s what the committee is looking for,” she said.
She said decisions like this are hard on the community and tough to make.
“It’s a space issue. The government has told us to get rid of excess space,” she said. “I’m not sure even how I’m voting on that. It’s just a matter of collecting the information so we can have a look and make an informed decision.”
The meeting will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at the CEC cafeteria on Lorne Street in Truro.