River John has received a glimmer of hope regarding the future of its school. If things pan out, the arrangement raises interesting possibilities for rural and small-town schools.
The Chignecto Central Regional School Board voted Wednesday that River John Consolidated will close in 2015, but left an opening to reverse that fate. In the two years leading up to the potential closing the community has been offered the chance to find alternative uses for the school to help offset operational costs.
This window comes from a pitch made at one of the public school review meetings – optimistic in itself that such input actually is considered. The idea is to form a community and business hub that would generate some income. In fact, interest in use of the premises had already been expressed.
It’s a bold idea, and hats off to the board for giving it merit. Budgets are strict exercises – and hellish to meet with the money savings boards have been forced to find. Bringing local groups or small operations into the equation will make budgeting a much more delicate balance.
But considering what stands to be saved – keeping a small community intact, with a school in place – it represents a noble and intriguing prospect.
In fact, the board voted to allow a similar plan for the elementary school in Maitland.
Secondary uses for schools is nothing new. The community school movement is a well-established tradition in Nova Scotia. Enrichment programs and recreational opportunities for people of all ages have been in place for years.
That’s not surprising, since schools and lifelong learning are the lifeblood of any community.
We could think of many arguments to maintain a school in River John, or other small villages. But the hard reality is it has to make ledger line sense.
Let’s hope sufficient interest and inventive ideas emerge. This initiative could mean saving River John school and more. It could provide a model for communities facing the same dilemma.