Province to manage River Hebert school project

Darrell Cole
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Takes responsibility from school board

The province has assumed control of the River Hebert school renovation project that has been stalled since January 2012.

HALIFAX – The stalled River Hebert school construction project has a new boss.

The province announced Thursday it is taking over management of the project from the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.

“The government is really eager for this project to move forward as quickly as possible. It’s been a very long and complex project,” Carole Olsen, deputy minister of education, said Thursday. “Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has a lot of resources within that department that they can focus and devote on this project to make sure it moves forward.”

Olson stressed the province’s decision has nothing to do with how the school board handled the file. She said the province is cognizant of how anxious the community is about the school and is well aware of fears the project won’t be completed.

“The province and the government have heard the angst in the community and how it wants this project to be completed. There have been complications in terms of getting all the right pieces in place to move it forward. In becoming the project manager, TIR will put the resources in to move the project forward as quickly as possible so it can be completed,” Olsen said.

Olsen does not have a firm timeline on when tenders will be called, but because TIR has made a commitment to it, she expects it to happen in the next few weeks. She said it’s too early to say when construction will resume on the project that has been stalled in January 2012 when tenders for the second phase of the project came in 45 per cent higher than budgeted.

As part of the project, the province will examine how the concept of a community hub school can be applied to the current design to provide the best education experience for students and maximum long-term benefit for the community.

She said part of the hub concept would be listening to what the community wants in the renovated school, but she said the first priority is getting the tenders called.

“This is positive step forward and the students and the community will be served well once we get this project completed and the students moved in,” she said.

School board spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson said the board was surprised by the announcement.

“We are unaware at this time as to why the project has been removed from CCRSB’s oversight,” she said in an email to the Amherst News.

Buott-Matheson said the bard completed all the necessary information for the requests for proposals in June and it has been waiting since then for the province to move forward and issue the request for proposals.

She said operational services staff has been working “incredibly hard over the past three years to keep this project moving. They have dedicated nights, weekends, vacations and family time to try and get the work completed on this project and to  meet the requests for information from stakeholders.”

The project, she added, has been stretched over three years, leaving students and staff in “an increasingly more difficult position. Their patience through all of this has to be commended.”

The board, she said, is hopeful the project will be completed for the students, staff and community.

Mike McLellan, who represents the area on county council, said the community is breathing a sigh of relief.

“It just shows what this community can accomplish when it works together. We weren’t going to lose this without a fight. We’ve already lost too much,” he said.

McLellan said a group of River Hebert residents were preparing to head to Halifax on Thursday afternoon to picket Premier Darrell Dexter’s office when he got word that the province is taking over the project’s management.

A public meeting had also been scheduled for Monday at the River Hebert legion to discuss the project, but that has now been cancelled.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: River Hebert school, Central Regional School Board, Amherst News

Geographic location: HALIFAX, Chignecto, River Hebert

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Recent comments

  • colin
    September 17, 2013 - 19:54

    So, the Provincial Government tries to make themselves look better after three years of inaction. Absolute hypocrisy! As soon as a tender comes in over budget, the Board can not move, other than to return to the Province for additional funds. The Treasury Board, with input from the Department of Education decides whether to increase the amount of money or re-tender(usually with much less involved in the renovations). What happened to this school, would never have been allowed to occur in a larger center. This is not the only provincial project in Cumberland County that has come in significantly over tender. One would think during three years that someone, especially in the Department of Education, would have realized that and actually advocated on behalf of the students and community. But, no, that would not happen...we're just too from Halifax.

  • Jacquelyn Lee
    September 14, 2013 - 11:27

    This looks great written down on paper but, a step forward in actual progress would be more appealing to the community and it's students. New schools are being put up within mere months all around us, it seems. Why does River Hebert end up on the far end of the spectrum?

  • Jessica
    September 13, 2013 - 20:50

    She said operational services staff has been working “incredibly hard over the past three years to keep this project moving. They have dedicated nights, weekends, vacations and family time to try and get the work completed on this project and to meet the requests for information from stakeholders.”-- I'm sorry but keep this project moving? It hasn't been moving. Perhaps this isn't a big deal to those of you who have children in schools that are fit to be in but to the parents who send their children to River Hebert schools enough is enough. Our children deserve to be in a school that they are proud of, that has a library that is staffed with librarians, not volunteers. Educators deserve to teach our children in classrooms that are not run down with materials that are post 1980. Why is it that the children of River Hebert are any less important to the province than the children attending Oxford schools or West Highlands? Maybe Debbie Buott-Matheson, Jamie Baillie and Romona Jennex should have to send their children or grandchildren to River Hebert schools. The residents of River Hebert pay property taxes, income taxes etc so why not see some of our money benefit our community?

  • Janice
    September 13, 2013 - 19:33

    I have it on good authority that the Public Meeting for Monday has not been cancelled. Please let community members who may not have access to the internet know!

  • mike
    September 13, 2013 - 07:38

    What a pleasant surprise, and happening only a month before an Election !!!!!! I am assuming ,however, that there is absolutely no connection.

  • Tracey
    September 13, 2013 - 06:46

    Who made the decision to cancel the public meeting??? I think the meeting should be a go and should have happened months ago! I feel like our children are pawns in this political game - and have been for a long time - the NDP is making sure that the Conservative leader loses his seat - he hasn't been able to fix this issue - although I believe he has tried! We are so afraid to open our mouths and speak up - our school has been saved from closure a few times and that is always in the back of our minds, if we speak up they will just close our school - we have nothing to lose people - we need to shout and SHOUT now!

    • River Hebert
      September 14, 2013 - 08:40

      The public meeting for Monday is still on ...@the River Hebert Legion @ 7pm.

  • David
    September 12, 2013 - 21:08

    The day they set up the forms will be the day I believe anything the government tells us. I think we should go to Halifax anyway. There is an election on and everyone wants to look good to the voter. Baillie has barely been seen in the area in the past 3 years. We will more than likely get tired of seeing and hearing from him in the next few weeks. I would like to see a pole to see who is ahead in Cumberland South. Everyone has been telling Baillie he is in trouble in the River Hebert Area,I think he is starting to believe it!!!!!!