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EDITORIAL: Great idea gets attention

A little like a deathbed conversion, the Nova Scotia Liberals have suddenly developed an interest in the hub school model.

That’s a beacon of hope for Louisbourg, but what about all those communities that lost out in the past couple of years because of a provincial government that refused to give the idea a chance?

Like any small Nova Scotian community, Louisbourg deserves to hang onto that feature vital in keeping a place vibrant. But so did River John, Wentworth, Maitland and other places where the provincial government washed its hands and relied on regional school boards to do their dirty work in shutting them down.

The hub model – bringing community and local organizations and businesses together to make the school more essential to everyone – is a brilliant idea, especially so where population levels are challenged. Education Minister Karen Casey recently contacted the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board to let them know the department would contribute funding toward a pilot project exploring the potential for this community-based model for the Louisbourg school.

The provincial NDP are among those saying those other communities deserve to hear whether their proposals will be reconsidered. The people who live in those areas will also be interested in hearing a response to that, considering the hard work they put into plans for a hub school, not to mention the accompanying widespread support from residents and from municipal governments.

We’ll recall the ‘hands-off’ approach the Liberals took when the hub proposals were in motion. They said the decision would be up to the school board – ultimately a death knell since the board is limited by the funding it has available for its region.

The province knew this and could conveniently appear to be washing its hands of the deed. The right thing to do, when those earlier initiatives were in the working stage, would have been to support a pilot project on the concept – even if limited funding spelled out the unenviable task of having to choose one of the schools to spare.

The reality is, this dilemma of shrinking school populations haunts more than these schools that the province through its callous disregard cut loose two years ago. We knew at the time that this challenge would arise again in outlying communities – and the one way to address the problem was to give the hub school model a try, even if that might take extra investment.

And hallelujah, the province is now finally acknowledging it.

Who knows what pressures led to a change of heart, possibly just that this government needs to show it has a handle on the education front – and has small community issues in mind.

But, like a student, they lose marks for handing this project in late. And those other communities deserve an honest answer as to whether this approach to maintaining a school could still work for them. Better late than never.

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