LANTZ: Shubenacadie District Elementary School is being recommended for closure by staff with Chignecto Central Regional School Board (CCRSB).
At a special meeting of the CCRSB board on April 10 at Maple Ridge Elementary School in Lantz, Herb Steeves, director of operational services at CCRSB, told the board members and a crowd of about 30 people that closure of Shubenacadie—one of two options that staff have—was the best one to meet the school review objectives.
“The option that best meets the school review objectives is CCRSB option b,” said Steeves reading from the technical report.
The closure of Shubenacadie would mean students from that school would be split between Maple Ridge and Winding River in Stewiacke, with those from Sipekne’katik being bused on band buses to Maple Ridge, thus being kept together.
Kerri-Ann Robson, chairwoman of the SOC, that has spent the past few months holding meetings to gather community input. She presented their findings and recommendation, which after whittling the list down from eight then to three, was to purchase Maple Ridge; continue to operate Shubenacadie school; and conduct a catchment area review of the area from Enfield District to Winding River Consolidated in Stewiacke.
“We didn’t have any idea as their staff had not indicated anyway they were leaning,” said Robson of the staff report recommendation.
Part of the recommendation from CCRSB said that all Grade 5 students at Shubenacadie Elementary school graduating this June would attend Riverside Education Centre (REC) in Milford for Grade 6 as a one year accommodation. This move would also allow them to remain in the HERH family of schools.
Developers have plans for the area, said Robson to the board. The first, from the Penney Group, is expected to see 200 semi-detached residences (400 units), and four apartment constructed in the Lantz area. She said that 200 children will require school placement, something Steeves concurred with in his staff report.
“There is capacity in the system to address any unexpected or relatively sudden increase in students,” he said.
Wendy Matheson-Withrow is a board representative for East Hants, and knows the Corridor well. She tried to bring that knowledge to the other members of the board through asking some of her questions to Steeves. Trudy Thompson from Maitland is the CCRSB board chairwoman.
“We have a lot of reflecting to do,” Matheson-Withrow said. “In this case, we clearly have to look forward and not be too short-sighted for the next five years.”
Later in the presentation she said the Lantz Interchange going in as well as three major developments will change in the area, and the enrollment figures staff had in their presentation showing a decline may not necessarily be true. In his presentation, Steeves said he could not find any information online on a start date for the Interchange; it is scheduled to start in Jan. 2019 as reported in stories following the announcement.
She understands the board has to make good financial decision, but isn’t sure closing one school to keep another open is the right decision given the potential growth in the area.
“You can’t move forward towards optimization at the sacrifice of good financial decision making,” she said.
Robson remained optimistic of the process despite what would appear as a smack in the face to the SOC committee.
“At times the process has been a difficult one, and it’s a relatively new process in N.S., so hopefully we’ll work out some of those kinks as we move along,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised with the intelligent and thoughtful questions the board was asking.
“I have faith that the board members are taking this very seriously and will do their job. While the staff report was disappointing from our point of view or not what we wanted to hear, it certainly was refreshing to hear the board questioning that report in their questions they put to staff.”
She said immediately upon hearing the staff recommendation, the SOC has arranged to meet again and are happy to hear they have the opportunity to put forth points or questions that will be circulated among the board members prior to them making a decision on April 26.
“April 26 will certainly be an interesting and eventful day I suspect,” she said.
Robson is hopeful that past history isn’t any indication of the road they’re headed down.
“A lot of boards do lean on their staff because they are the experts,” she said. “We’re hoping we brought them enough solid information to at least have them consider our point of view and ask the staff some hard questions in making their decision.”
When asked if the effort would have been worth it if the final outcome is indeed to close Shubenacadie, Robson believes it was.
“No one wants to see that effort go to waste,” said Robson, “but I certainly think it was worth the effort and the community was so fantastic in bringing us information and to give us this platform to take it to the board.
“Regardless of the outcome, I’m glad we had that ability. I’m hoping it was just enough to sway the board.”
The CCRSB board will render their decision at their April 26 meeting in Truro.