WESTVILLE – The Town of Westville isn’t giving up on Highland Consolidated School just yet.
Coun. Lynn MacDonald said it’s important the town have a strong voice regarding possible permanent closure of the school, so a public meeting Monday is the place to be heard.
The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board will hold a meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Walter Duggan School as part of the school review process for Highland Consolidated.
Members of the public will be able to speak both about the recent impact assessment report done on HCMS as well as the study committee’s response before the school board makes a decision in March on whether the middle school should be closed for good.
MacDonald and others on Westville council have expressed concern in the past about losing a school in the town because it has an impact on local businesses and the community setting.
However, she admitted, she didn’t know what was next for council in its fight to keep its school.
“Is this the end of it?” she asked. “Is there nothing more we can do?”
The students from Highland Consolidated were moved to Dr. W.A. MacLeod more than year ago when students and staff reported an odour in the school that was making them ill.
The province has allotted $3.5 million to the renovations at MacLeod School which will turn it into a Primary to Grade 8 facility, however, work cannot begin until the school review is complete and the board makes its decision, said CCRSB communications manager Debbie Buott-Matheson.
MacDonald said media reports indicate the provincial government is willing to dedicate $3.5 million to renovations at Dr. WA MacLeod School to accommodate Westville middle school students when it would only cost about $1.5 million to fix Highland.
“Why is it more to renovate MacLeod School and what is to become of Highland Consolidated?” she asked.
Buott-Matheson said the school board has been dealing with HCMS for two years and it’s possible that $1.5 million would fix the building, but the bigger problem is a perception of it being a “sick school.”
“We could spend $1.5 million to fix the roof, but there could still be the perception that it is a sick building,” she said. “We could return the school population there, but the first time someone gets ill, we could have the entire school population saying they don’t want to be there anymore.”
She said the school board has been dealing with the issues surrounding HCMS for the past two years and have spoken to many people involved with the school.
“We keep hearing from parents who don’t want to see their kids back in the (Highland Consolidated) building,” she added.
Town council is going to request the school board let it view the results of a recent survey done by the school review committee on whether people want to see HCMS open again.
“For a town to lose a school is never a good thing,” said Coun. Charlie Sutherland. “For the school board to recommend one school against another is a major blow for an incorporated town.”
Members of the public wishing to make a formal presentation at the March 3 public hearing are asked to contact Buott-Matheson, at 902-897-8911 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.