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Evaluation committee recommends closure of three local schools

TRURO – Defeated expressions, heads shaking ‘no’ and a sarcastic reply of “shocker” came from a small crowd of people upon hearing recommendations that local schools should be closed for good this month.

River John Consolidated School supporter Sheree Fitch, right, and others react to a Chignecto-Central Regional School Board hub proposal evaluation committee’s recommendation to close the school, as well as one in Maitland and Wentworth. Official decisions on the schools’ fate will be made next week. Monique Chiasson – Truro Daily News

On Wednesday night, Gary Clarke, Chignecto-Central Regional School Board superintendent, read a report from a hub proposal evaluation committee recommending the closure of Maitland district, Wentworth consolidated and River John consolidated schools at the end of this month. An official vote will take place next Wednesday at a school board meeting at Truro elementary beginning at 7 p.m.

“It’s an obvious disappointment but we are not surprised,” Wentworth supporter Rick Parker told the Truro Daily News. “It’s hard to be hopeful after tonight.”

The evaluation committee gave numerous reasons for the Wentworth closure suggestion, including “insufficient evidence of public school program,” lack of retail space details and revenue, and an “underlying negative tone” throughout the hub proposal process.

The committee rated the community’s hub proposal 22.3 out of 100 per cent.

Sheree Fitch said she wasn’t surprised with officials’ recommendation to support closure of the River John school, which received a “mark” of 43.8 per cent.

“We knew from the get-go… this would be financially impossible,” Fitch said. “We are not surprised… we thought, ‘they are going to fail us all.’”

Fitch said she understands the board is “doing their job” but she said “it’s not over yet,” indicating the intention would be to “go directly to the minister of Education for a collaborative partnership with all (interested) provincial departments.”

The evaluation committee cited numerous reasons it recommended closure, including the school board would’ve been responsible for all the school’s costs next year, the hub model wasn’t detailed enough, no evidence of municipal grants and no evidence of major fundraiser results.

No one from Maitland spoke with this paper after the meeting, which revealed a 47 out of 100 per cent score for that school’s hub proposal. Reasons to recommend closure, the report indicated, included the school would be in deficit for the foreseeable future, lack of tenant information, unconfirmed funding and some health and safety risks.

“I’m really disappointed... the scores seem to be very low for the work the (communities) did,” said board member Margie Nicholson.

“It’s a cold, hard look...” said board member Vivian Farrell, adding she appreciated all the work communities submitted.

A staff report on proposed bus routes, in the event of closures, offered a look at various routes and times. For Wentworth, a new bus system could include between 11 and 18 stops, with travel time between 39 to 52 minutes.

In Maitland, there could be up to 23 stops and travel time as much as 52 minutes. Statistics for River John will be available next week.

The information “meets CCRSB standard travel times… and are under an hour,” said Herb Steeves, director of operational services.

Board member Andrea Paul, however, questioned if the travel times are realistic.

Twitter: tdnMonique

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