RIVER JOHN – While families were watching sheep get sheared or browsing through the craft and quilt sale on Saturday, volunteers were manning a petition close by.
River John Festival Days wasn’t only about fun. It was also an opportunity for the Support Our School committee and their volunteers to rally further support for their cause – to keep River John Consolidated open.
“Everybody, I think, in the village believes (in keeping) their kids in River John,” Bernadette Romanowsky, a volunteer for the petition booth, said.
Romanowsky chatted with residents and visitors during her shift as they stopped by the booth, across from the pharmacy, to sign the two petitions, one addressed to Education Minister Karen Casey and the other to the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.
The petitions are a call to stop the closure, slated for June 2015.
Though that could change if the community comes up with a hub model, the committee isn’t going to give up on other options either.
Minister Casey released guidelines for the model on July 21, which states that any proposal for use of available space in a school must not increase costs for the school board, nor negatively impact learning.
“This is another step in restoring trust in the school review process by giving parents and communities more options to work with boards to ensure schools remain an important part of the community for years to come,” she said in a release.
The Support Our School committee has eight months to come up with a proposal.
“We have to be really creative, really efficient and really speedy in everything we do, but I think the first thing in what we want to do is to get the community gathered together and get community input. It’s really important that this smaller committee has the input from the larger community of River John. It’s not just going to be a school for the kids if we’re going to create a community centre and a hub model and an educational centre,” committee member Sheree Fitch said.
Two members of the committee met with school board representatives earlier this week to discuss the hub model, a meeting Fitch was told felt co-operative.
Though they’re not prepared to talk of plans, Fitch said, she offered a bit of a ‘teaser.’
“We will enhance the school as it is, and then there will be something else that we think is going to be really innovative and creative and really make it a super place for not just the students of River John, but the students of Pictou County (and the) North Shore.”
Fitch said they’re going to recharge after a busy festival, and then begin to come up with a solid plan.
Manning a petition booth 12 hours a day was only one of the committee’s recent projects.
They’re increasing their visibility in the town with a recently painted billboard, a visible testament to the community’s dedication.
Handprints, big and small, show the level of support to save the school, painted on a brightly coloured building in the heart of the community.
Before the festival, parents, students and residents spent a day, changing the drab to fab.
“It just looks so happy when you go through,” Fitch said.
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