Too many questions remain unanswered for schools on the chopping block to proceed with detailed action plans for the buildings’ future use.
© Monique Chiasson – Truro Daily News
Cathrine Yuill spoke to the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board’s operational and education services committee this week on behalf of the Maitland District Elementary School. Yuill talked about what ideas, and obstacles, have come forward regarding possibly using the building as an education and hub/community centre in the future. Similar presentations were made by representatives from Wentworth consolidated and River John consolidated schools. All three schools are facing possible closure next June.
Representatives from Maitland district elementary, Wentworth consolidated elementary and River John consolidated schools gave presentations to the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board’s joint operational and education services committee Tuesday night regarding progress on potentially turning the buildings into education and community/hub centres. The schools are slated to close in June 2015, but the Department of Education asked CCRSB to consider extending that date to June 2016 to allow the government time to review its school closure review and hub model guidelines.
River John’s Rev. Greg Dickson was one of the presenters for his community’s school. That group wants CCRSB to rescind the original motion to close the school next June, or to undergo a new review process, or lastly, to change the closure date to 2016. The group also wanted a clarification on what is meant by CCRSB when it says the hub model would need to be “revenue neutral.”
The group recommends an education and community centre for the school building. It would be an interactive, cultural heritage learning site and wellness centre focusing on its shipbuilding past.
In the past year, the group has felt a “high level of confusion over what a hub could look like” and there doesn’t seem to be an answer regarding prospective tenants. Despite that, the group has continued to meet to create plans for a possible hub centre, met with the community and county representatives as well as with other schools under review.
Dickson also said a roof replacement, parking lot upgrades and a paved play space are needed before a hub centre could be constructed.
Cathrine Yuill spoke on behalf of Maitland elementary, saying it’s difficult to implement a success plan when “we’ve never felt like a definition of what success looks like” and it hasn’t been confirmed what type of revenue the group is responsible for attaining.
Yuill said other roadblocks include not knowing who the building’s landlord would be, what businesses or groups would be allowed onsite, and what rental rates would be.
Despite a lack of guidelines, the group has been busy and hopes a two-year timeline once a new provincial government policy is implemented can be adhered to. It has worked on a business plan, collaborated with provincial and regional representatives, and considered funding and revenue possibilities such as grants, community fundraising, space rentals and social enterprise.
“It would take three years to get (substantial) revenues,” Yuill suggested.
It has also researched possible uses for a hub model, including hostel, seniors or children’s centre, health, business or government offices, learning centres or community Internet sites, to name a few.
Rick Parker spoke on behalf of the Wentworth school. The Wentworth School Sustainability Association requested the 2013 conditional closure decision be “set aside” or extended or have the school included in a future review instead.
The association’s work, Parker said, “has been significantly impeded by the lack of guidelines or specific expectations forthcoming from the CCRSB or the provincial government.”
Parker said in the past year, the group has held regular meetings, discussed fundraising, analyzed school operating costs, and communicated with government officials.
The association believes the school has “little, if any, available space for other daytime rental use … the hub model does not readily fit with our school,” Parker said.
He suggested operating costs could be “reduced or controlled” by significant cost savings such as with garbage collection and administration.
In addition, Parker also said more information from CCRSB is required, such as defining specific operations requirements, revenue expectations and policies.
Vivian Farrell, chairwoman of the meeting, confirmed a decision will be made at the June 11 regular monthly meeting in Truro.