New school remains a possibility: minister

Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - While no decisions have been made, other than what's already been announced, Education Minister Karen Casey feels a new school for West Highlands remains a possibility.
"It's certainly a part of our ongoing discussions with the school board," the minister said last night. "I was in Truro today for a function and the superintendent (Noel Hurley) raised the issue of overcrowding and what we're going to do about West Highlands."
As it stands, the historic school is set for a $3-million renovation next year. However, before the tender is called for that project the minister said officials from her department will be in contact with the board to decide if a renovation project is the best use of taxpayer money or would students be better served by a new school.
If the decision is made to build a new school, though, that doesn't necessarily mean it would happen overnight.
Last week, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board opted to move Grade 5 and 6 French immersion to Cumberland North Academy in Brookdale to deal with overcrowded conditions at Spring Street Academy in Amherst.
Board officials say the move is a short-term one and that they will continue to lobby government to replace West Highlands, after which they will review school boundaries in Amherst and move the immersion program back to Spring Street.
The minister, who used to work for the board, is well aware of the situation at West Highlands. Her deputy, Dr. Dennis Cochrane, toured the school last spring and recommended new construction as opposed to the planned renovations.
Cumberland North MLA Ernie Fage is also working to have West Highlands replaced.
"It's something I've been working on for 18 months now," said Fage, saying he has taken concerns of West Highlands parents, and now Spring Street Academy parents to the minister.
Fage feels the planned renovations should be put aside and the money budgeted for the project used on a new school.
"I've spoken to the minister about this on a couple of occasions and the deputy minister has toured the building and met with school officials," Fage said. "I'm quite confident this will be resolved in favour of a new building."
Casey said no new schools have been added to what's a $400-million capital construction since 2003. However, schools, such as Oxford, that were on the list as a renovation have been altered to become new schools.

Organizations: Street Academy, Central Regional School Board, Cumberland North Academy

Geographic location: West Highlands, AMHERST, Truro Chignecto Brookdale Oxford

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