Margaret Sutherland is breathing a sigh of relief this week.
The school she spent her childhood at, although still facing potential closure, has been saved for at least two more years.
Wednesday night the Chignecto Central Regional School Board voted to close the school in 2015, but with the option to rescind within the next two years.
Members of the community are optimistic that they can use that time to develop a plan to save the school and keep their kids in the community.
“It would have been nice to get the five years as was asked, but two years is better than nothing,” Sutherland said.
She’s hoping that over the next two years the community can find ways to use the extra space in the school, so the school board won’t see it as much of a burden. She’s also optimistic that enrolment could go up during that time.
Margaret loved the school when she was there with the small classes and activities that you couldn’t find anywhere else. She is fighting hard to save it, not only for the sake of the school itself, but for River John itself.
“I don’t know if the community will survive without it,” she said.
The building has been the focal point of the community and has housed everything from 4-H meetings to cooking classes.
“I can’t think of another building that’s used as much as our school,” she said. “It’s really well maintained.”
Her mother, Mary-Beth, is equally as concerned that the school stay.
“We have to help revitalize the community,” she said. “It was once a prosperous community.”
Like many rural communities they’ve lost their young people to the lure of western money and jobs. But these people know that to save their community, they need a school.
“We have to look outside the box,” she said. “I think the community will step up to the plate and help us keep our school here.”
Dan Ferguson, a businessman in the community, has also been fighting to keep the school and has been part of the group spearheading the idea of turning the school into a hub, where community groups and even businesses could rent space.
There’s already been interest from various groups and there is no question in his mind that this approach will work.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of things change over the next number of years,” he said.
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