TRURO – Chignecto-Central Regional School Board members have been asked to extend the closure date of three area schools.
Last spring, the board voted to close Maitland District Elementary, Wentworth Consolidated Elementary and River John Consolidated on June 30, 2015. A letter from Education Minister Karen Casey was read at Wednesday night’s committee-of-the-whole school board meeting in Truro asking the board to consider extending the date until June 30, 2016.
The request, which can be accepted or denied by the school board, would give the province more time to consider what hub models would look like, as well as to hear feedback on plans for such centres within the designated schools, and for continued insight on school review processes. A hub model would mean using a school for both education and community usage that would generate revenue.
Casey’s letter indicated a team will be formed to develop criteria for the consideration of hub models by this September.
Many board members thought it necessary to hear updates from the three schools slated for closure to see how far they have come in potential solutions and hub model development.
“I think we need to hear where are the communities (in the hub model development process),” said board chairwoman Trudy Thompson.
Board member Jim Grue said time is of the essence.
“I hope schools involved aren’t sitting back and waiting … to the last minute,” to develop a plan, he said.
The community, including representatives from the three schools, is invited to attend an operational services meeting on May 20, beginning at 5 p.m., at the school board office on Lorne Street to discuss potential hub models in their communities. The school board will use that information to help decide whether to extend the closure date of the three buildings.
Board member Mackie Ross said if the board accepts the extension request, he personally hopes that would mean the schools would again be given a two-year “grace period.”
School board superintendent Gary Clarke reminded the board the
“rationale was to give the (communities) two years to look into hub models” when the closure vote was taken last year. Safety, cost to the board, compatible use and generating revenue are all issues that will factor into a decision.
Debate continued at the meeting on the “fairness” of having schools raise money to keep their doors open.
“We shouldn’t have communities and schools raising money to keep schools open,” said Ross, asking if it’s fair to have “our smallest schools generate revenues so larger (schools) won’t feel the pinch.”
Grue countered saying, “the reality is it is the community who came up with the hub concept to keep schools open.”
“Generating revenue to at least match operation costs … the schools knew that was a big concept,” added Clarke.
Board member Wendy Matheson-Withrow hoped the process is carried out in a time-efficient manner.
“The longer it takes, the more it impacts all students because it affects our budget,” she said.
Clarke reiterated if a community comes up with what the board deems a viable hub model for the schools facing closure, it is possible the vote to close the schools could be rescinded.