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EDITORIAL: Programs many deem essential

Educational offerings should be on par for students across Nova Scotia. But young people in the Town of Pictou are getting shortchanged in a couple of vital areas, as Mayor Jim Ryan pointed out this week at a meeting of town council.

The mayor informed council Monday that he’d learned the middle school students at McCulloch Education Centre would be losing their technology education – involving woodworking – and family studies, which includes instruction in such areas as food and nutrition. He’s written to the regional director of education for the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education to maintain that these courses, even though electives, are essential to some students and can’t be left to lapse.

For young students, an early grounding in technical understanding is crucial in an economy where trades are highly desirable vocational paths. This kind of instruction involves developing new sets of skills and draws on different areas of the brain – notably, at a critical stage of development – such as spatial awareness, calculations and physical co-ordination. There’s more at stake here than just making these young people more handy.

Ditto for a program that offers a grounding in food preparation and nutrition.

Consider the potential effect this could have on young people who might want to pursue careers in those areas. At a time when we anticipate growing numbers of jobs in the food and service industry, an introduction to this training carries great value. And with concerns about nutrition and its impact on health, the subject would benefit anyone.

All education is valuable, certainly, but these life skills deserve to be taught in schools.

With the changes this past year in grade configurations in Pictou schools, the facilities for these middle school courses were lacking at what had been Pictou Elementary, but a plan was in place. Grade 7 and 8 students were bused to Pictou Academy for the instruction.

Ryan said that arrangement should continue until a lasting solution can be found.

He called the decision not to offer the programs an insult.

And it’s good that the mayor has put some focus on this omission. That’s the start to encouraging the public to apply pressure.

Ryan also draws attention to overcrowding in the school now known as McCulloch Education Centre, housing Primary to 8, a configuration the former school board seemed bent on when the review was on in 2016 regarding the schools’ futures.

In response, a spokesperson from the regional education centre clarifies that the setting of electives and corresponding schedules is a function of the principal, who consults the school advisory council and family of schools supervisor. Considering the concern expressed, this is a decision that would merit a second look.

During discussions about the schools’ futures, Ryan has said, it was made clear that these programs would remain available to grades 7 and 8 students. To see them discontinued after a year isn’t very encouraging. People might well wonder what else isn’t written in stone.

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