School building on course to official closure
Highland Consolidated School will not have classes for two days in the attempt to find what is causing an ongoing odour. Adam MacInnis – The News
Westville – The local school board is expected to decide this fall what it will do with Highland Consolidated Middle School.
Chignecto-Central Regional School Board has removed students from the Westville school, but it still has to decide what it wants to do with the building, says board communications manager Debbie Boutt- Matheson.
“An impact assessment report is currently being done and will be presented to the board in September,” she said, adding if it is accepted by the board, the next step will be for the board to hold public meetings on the building’s possible closure.
She said the board has until March 2014 to decide what it is going to do with the vacant building, but she doesn’t anticipate it will take that long to come to a conclusion.
However, she said, one thing is for certain. Students will not be returning the school again.
“The board considered the cost that it would take to renovate the school to the point where it was before and it decided to have the staff and students taken out,” Boutt-Matheson said.
Children and staff complained of headaches and sickness while attending the school from March 2011 and onward.
The board hired specialists to investigate the cause of the odor in January 2012, but they were unable to pinpoint on specific cause. A final report indicates the majority of the odor is coming from the roof. The roof had been repaired many times and some of the debris from the work was causing some foul smells. There were also water damaged and stained ceiling tiles and drywall around the windows and mould was identified in the outside wall cavity in one area of the building. Inspectors also found some sewer gas leaking from the pipe chase near the janitors closet and recycling bins were constructed of wood that are not suitable material to prevent mould growth.
Boutt-Matheson said the rubber mats in the exercise room were also giving off a bad smell and the radiators in some of the classrooms were dusty and contained garbage such as old milk cartons and chip bags.
The students were transferred from Highland Consolidated in the spring of 2012 to the Nova Scotia Community College in Stellarton to finish out their school year and started the next year at Dr. WA MacLeod in Riverton.
The school board determined in January that the student will stay Dr. WA MacLeod but renovations would have to be made to accommodate the middle school students.
Boutt-Matheson said the CCRSB has applied to the province for capital grants to help cover the costs of the renovations, but it is still waiting on approval for the funding.
She said conditions will be similar to last year at MacLeod School, but they CCRSB is looking at addressing some of issues concerning gym class and having to transport students to the NSCC for such classes.
“Now that the situation is long term, some different scheduling might take place that will hopefully eliminate the need to go there,” she said.
Boutt-Matheson said if the funding is approved by the province, the majority of the work probably won’t take place until the students are out of school next June.
As for the former Highland Consolidated Middle School, if the board decides to officially close the school, it will turned over to the Town of Westville as a vacant building.
Boutt-Matheson said she expects there to be some discussion between the town and CCRSB before the matter is decided upon.
Westville councilors said earlier this week that they would like to meet with the school board to discuss what its plans are for the building’s future.
“That building is too good of a building to be left vacant,” said one councilor.
Close to 5,000 students are expected to start school next Thursday in Pictou County.