Talk about a case of a system destined for failure. That’s what has happened with the ‘solution’ for Highland Consolidated School.
Chignecto Central Regional School Board’s decision to close the school in Westville over air quality worries was reasonable. But a policy dictating that default ownership of a discarded building goes to a town that can’t afford it lacks foresight.
This has been a long story, with the school board spending money to determine the source of the smell. Considering studies failed to pinpoint a definite cause, the idea of spending more on possible cures and returning students to it presented a risk.
Board officials and others have referred to the perception that it’s a ‘sick building.’ That reputation would be hard to shake, even if upgrades were ordered.
Town of Westville leaders had said they wouldn’t accept the return of ownership without the building being in its original condition. But they had little choice, the keys were returned, and now Westville has on its hands what most would deem a liability.
That the town can’t afford to maintain and heat the building – let alone find the odour problem and remediate – is lost on no one. Just weeks ago Westville was identified in a provincial report as the municipality with the most red flags in regard to financial matters.
At the same time, we also have a school board scraping to find enough funds for classrooms.
This outcome is hardly what you might call isolated. Other municipalities in the province face financial hardships and also have schools they couldn’t afford to keep should the school ever be chopped.
We have no rational course laid out on what to do under such circumstances, bit of a catch-22. The current policy is like a dog chasing its tail.
Granted, when a problem like this comes up a tendency is to appeal to the province. But the provincial government is going to have to examine this, not just to come to Westville’s aid, but to find a sensible solution no matter where it happens.