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.