While the public was expecting a decision on the fate of a number of schools in the district, what the school board has delivered is a lack of decision.
What’s left hanging here is the concept of the community hub for rural schools, as the Chignecto Central Regional School Board voted Wednesday night to delay its decision until next March on whether to extend the possible closure dates by a year.
Education Minister Karen Casey had requested just such an extension – much to the province’s credit – to allow time to plan how the hub model would work. It’s an innovative idea for schools with shrinking student population, to find a way to provide space for small businesses in the area, thus helping justify the cost of keeping the school open.
Are we to understand from this decision by the board that they could conceivably, next March, vote no to extension – and they would close just months later?
That helps no one, it doesn’t aid the process of trying to assemble a working model for the school as community hub and, really, smacks of dithering.
We’re entering new, uncharted waters here. No one has defined how any revenues generated by a business renting space would be applied to the school’s bottom line, or how it would help determine a school’s long-term viability.
And so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark for all involved. But where does that leave a business considering this option? As Linda Patriquin of the Wentworth School Sustainability Association described it, it’s backing them into a corner.
James Winn of River John said having to aim for the March 2015 date robs them of the time needed to work on the hub model.
The school board insists it hasn’t already made up its mind on the decision. But still, a short, uncertain future is no enticement to business.
As much as we prefer seeing local boards making decisions, perhaps the province should step in at this point and assert that this call isn’t conducive to undertaking this valuable experiment.