Public meeting Monday
© Christopher Gooding - Amherst Daily News
A public meeting is being held tonight to talk about the future of Wentworth Elementary that is being studied for possible closure by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.
WENTWORTH - Frustration is clashing with finances in Wentworth.
The Wentworth Elementary School is one of a handful in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board being considered for possible closure. Critics of the potential closure say it would strike a devastating blow to Wentworth's future, and force an entire generation of school kids to spend hours every day traveling to schools in other communities.
"This is not an easy process," said school board spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson. "We're not in the business of closing schools."
The school ended up on the potential chopping block because of an impact assessment report. Buott-Matheson said a number of factors are considered when looking at closing a school, but finances are a large factor. Critics of the possible closure also maintain student numbers at the small school will rise, not shrink as predicted by the assessment.
She stressed that being on the list doesn't mean a school will be closed.
"Wentworth has been in this process before," she said, and wasn't closed.
A local, school-based committee is tasked with drawing up a rebuttal to the impact assessment. The rebuttal is to be tabled to the board Feb. 1. On the basis of that rebuttal, the board could choose to remove the school from the closure list.
If that doesn't happen, public meetings will be held by the board, after which a public vote will be held by board members. Final approval of the board's decision is made by the Department of Education, according to the spokeswoman.
Cecil MacLeod doesn't sound like he has much faith in the process. The father of three young kids moved to Wentworth just this past fall. His reason for bringing his family to the area begins at the centre of this conflict.
"The school, the community...the way I wanted my children to be brought up."
MacLeod is the chairman of the study review committee tasked with drawing up the rebuttal to the impact assessment report. He's frustrated. He said the board hasn't been completely transparent.
"I've received no clarification on anything I've requested," he claimed.
The father takes pains to point out he understands schools sometimes need to be closed. But he thinks the process by which decisions are made is flawed. He said when he wanted to speak at a Dec. 12 public board meeting about the process - not the particulars of his school, according to him - he was denied the opportunity.
He said work wasn't done to fix problems with the school building, then problems with the building are being used to justify shutting it down.
He claimed the roof was given a score of zero out of 14 in the assessment when, in the contractor's view, it has a few leaks but can be fixed.
An attempt to reach Margie Nicholson, school board member for the area, was unsuccessful.
If the Wentworth school closes, the chairman said he'll homeschool.