MILFORD: As the expiration date on P3 school leases approach province wide, the government and school boards are faced with some big decisions regarding the areas needs when it comes to education.

With East Hants facing two potential permanent school closures, as Maple Ridge Elementary School in Lantz is one of the few schools on a list of 39 P3 schools that has not been guaranteed to be purchased by the provincial government during the ongoing school review process, and Shubenacadie Elementary School has a declining enrolment rate, parents of students are rallying together to try and save their local schools.

On Jan. 4, approximately 50 concerned parents gathered at the Milford Recreation Hall to participate in a brainstorming session to try and find the most effective way to lobby the government and school board to keep both of the schools open.

One of these two schools will likely end up closed; with Maple Ridge not being on the list for the province to purchase, and Shubenacadie school already being owned by the school board, with a significant amount of money being put into renovations, it is likely that the later will be the one to survive. But the end goal for these parents is simple: they want to remain the status quo.

“I don’t think anyone in the community would say we don’t need a school,” said Aaron Fotheringham, one of the organizers of the brainstorming session, and a parent to Maple Ridge Elementary students.

In a community that has seen no shortage of growth over the past few decades, parents believe getting rid of another school in the area— a school that they fought to have opened in the first place out of necessity— would be a huge mistake. Not only would it require current and future students to be bused lengthily distances to attend school elsewhere, but such a move has the potential to devalue properties in the area, and take away from local businesses.

“Until there is a list with Maple Ridge on it, I am going to assume it is not being purchased,” said Fotheringham, “We are drafting a statement on the situation facing our schools in order to distribute around our communities in efforts to educate the public and business community. The business community we feel is going to be our best allies in this fight and making sure people without kids but own a home are aware of the possibility of the schools closing and how that will affect home prices.”

Parents are now in the process of preparing a petition that will be taken door-to-door between residences and businesses to show those involved in the decision making process just how valuable these schools are to the community.

Parents have only a few months to state their case as there must be a recommendation made on the future of Maple Ridge by March of 2017, with a final decision made by May.

The lease officially expires at the end of July, 2019. The school has been leased since 1999, since then the government has paid over nine million in principal payments, and almost 7 million in interest, a total of almost 16 million dollars has been invested in this one school. The school can be purchased for the cost of 4.5 million.

They have put together a Facebook page, ‘Save East Hants School’, where the brainstorming continues. There will be petitions, and posters distributed throughout East Hants as the decision date draws nearer.

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Nicole Gnazdowsky
Nicole graduated from Saint Francis Xavier University with a degree in political science in 2014 and University of King’s College with a journalism degree in 2016. She has been with The Weekly Press since May 2016. Nicole grew up in Rothesay N.B. and now lives in Halifax. She loves her dog, Madden, and travelling.