A final opportunity

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A full house

WENTWORTH – Strong words and a community in crisis. Wentworth residents came out in force tonight to defend their elementary school from potential closure. The public meeting at Wentworth Consolidated Elementary School was attended by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board; it was the community’s final public opportunity to make presentations to its members.

About 30 presenters had requested an opportunity to speak.

“I don’t think children can endure that,” said Justin Rushton, a father who expressed concerns about the three hours he claimed kids would spend on buses each day.

Diane Powell said not much has changed in the five years since the last review of the school, in which it was decided the school shouldn’t be closed. She questioned if the decision to review it again indicated a bias against Wentworth. Powell said the review was attack on rural Nova Scotia and rural life across the country, and said failing pulp companies seem to be a bigger priority for the government than educating children.

The school plays a role hosting Community Schools activities, according to Laurel Adams, such as yoga, zumba and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“I’m frustrated,” said Donna Reid, parent of a child who will attend the school in the future if it stays open.

The mother expressed her disappointment in what she said was a lack of support from the board member for the Wentworth region, Margie Nicholson.

Brandon Levy said it takes a village to raise a child, and a school is the heart of a village. And Cecil MacLeod challenged everything from what he felt were overpayments to staff to underpayments for school repairs.

“Stop the review,” said Jamie Baillie, MLA for Cumberland South and leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives, in the wake of saying the school review committee did a “great and thorough job” of poking holes in the facts and figures of the impact assessment.

Board members were prevented by the framework of the public consultation process from defending the impact assessment report or rebutting the claims of critics.

A spokesperson for the board, Debbie Buott-Matheson, said board members welcomed the opportunity to hear directly from the community.

“This is a difficult process…they have been given much to consider and take their responsibility seriously,” she said.

Details are being arranged for follow-up interviews with the chair of the board, Trudy Thompson, as well as other stakeholders in this developing story…

Organizations: Wentworth Consolidated Elementary School, Central Regional School Board, Community Schools Alcoholics Anonymous Progressive Conservatives

Geographic location: Chignecto, Nova Scotia, Cumberland South

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