Westville declining return of ownership of Highland school

Sueann Musick
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WESTVILLE – The building that once housed Highland Middle School could soon be an unwanted piece of property.

Westville town council announced during Monday’s regular meeting that the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board wants to hand over the keys to the building today (April 30), but the town said it is not accepting them.

Town CAO Kelly Rice said the town has told the school board it wants the building to meet certain provincial standards before it is returned to the municipality, but the board contends it is in good condition.

The school has been vacant since the spring of 2012 after students and staff started complaining of an odour that was making them ill. The students were moved temporarily to the Nova Scotia Community College and then found a home at Dr. W.A. MacLeod School in Riverton.

Westville town council opposed the school board’s decision saying that the problem causing the odour can be fixed and the middle school students can return to Westville rather than stay in school in Riverton.

Tenders for the consulting team that will develop the construction requirements for the renovations at MacLeod School to make it into a Primary to Grade 8 school have closed and the $3.7 million worth of work is set to begin this summer.  

Westville council has sent a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil requesting a meeting over the school closure, but it hasn’t gotten a response back yet.

Westville Mayor Roger MacKay said the nurses’ strike at the first of the month captured much of the government’s attention, but when he spoke to the premier, he assured him he would read the letter. MacKay said the town has sent off another email reminding the premier that the issue is still waiting an answer.

Debbie Buott-Matheson, communications manager for the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, said the board has taken all of its property out of the building and the keys to the building will be returned to the school’s official owner.

“The building has been fit for occupation since the students and staff left it,” she said. “There are no air quality issues. There was an odour in the building and based on the research and work done, it’s likely the best result (getting rid of it) would come from replacing the entire roof.”

However, she said, the school board is concerned there is a “perception” that the building is sick so it decided against doing the repairs in Westville and instead opted for renovations at MacLeod School.

Buott-Matheson said if the town does not accept the keys to the building, school board staff will have to determine what its next step will be.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Community College, Westville town council, Central Regional School Board MacLeod School Highland school Grade 8 school

Geographic location: Westville, Chignecto, Riverton

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  • concerned Tax Payer
    April 30, 2014 - 14:20

    The province is broke and the CCSB would like to spend our tax dollars to move hundreds of children from their community to an elementary school that will require millions of dollars to upgrade ! What if these repairs are shoddily done , like the roof of the HCMS. The School Board admits that the problems at the Middle school are due to vents in the roof being covered during repairs and that the cost to redo the roof properly is less than the cost to upgrade MacLeod by millions of dollars. Congratulations to the Town of Westville for standing firm in their position (which the School Board's own report , that members of the Board admit to not reading) that the roof needs to be repaired and that the building is a great place for a school. Who are these people who decide the fate of our families without consultation with the goverment or parents!!! Thanks Tim Huston for your support in saving a school and standing for responsible use of our taxes.

  • Stellarton Resident
    April 30, 2014 - 14:17

    It's unfortunate that Westville council's main concern in this is the loss of business for a pizza shop and a convenience store and not that students and teachers were getting sick in that school for years! No one knows for sure what is causing the illnesses and fixing the roof and sewer may not be the only solution. It's just speculation that this may cure the problem. Also I heard that the drug problem at Highland Consolidated has been greatly reduced since moving to Riverton because students are not able to leave the school grounds during their lunch break. I for one agree with the school boards decision to move the school.

  • But One Resident
    April 30, 2014 - 00:32

    So, is the School Board interested in doing the repairs at all or what? If they are not interested in doing the repairs needed, why are they giving the keys back to anyone? Is the school Board genuinely surprised that the town of Westville doesn't want the keys back to a building that will not get the repairs needed and also a building where the “perception” that it is sick is used as the determining factor?? Also, I must add that I am quite surprised at the actions of the school board on this issue.....or must I say their Quite Focused Lack of Action on The Issue that affects ... at the very least a few thousand families and a several hundred students (not to mention the people affected at W. A. MacLeod. Quite unacceptable!!

    • MacKenzie
      April 30, 2014 - 19:41

      They are giving the keys back as the building reverts back to the original owners...the Town. The building is on Town property. As with all these municipal school closures, the Town resumes ownership. The School Board does minimal repairs during the last years of the schools useful life. It would not make sense for the board to use provincial (municipal) tax dollars in infrastructure upgrades knowing the schools was closing. The Town must now decide to demolish, become the landlord, or offer it up for development opportunities. Hopefully and Town decision will not burden the tax payer. Either way, it is not a Board issue.

  • Bob
    April 29, 2014 - 22:01

    Aha! Does anyone else smell a rat here? If nobody wants the building, then we must give credit to our school board for their astute decision to forego remediation last fall.