Amherst helps kick off West Highlands fundraising campaign

Darrell Cole
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Raising $181,836 to fund enhanced gymnasium

Amherst has kicked off West Highlands fundraising campaign with a $35,400 contribution for an enhanced gymansium at the school.

Kevin Mapplebeck, principal of West Highlands Elementary, accepts a $35,400 cheque from Amherst Mayor Robert Small and members of town council (back from left) Frank Balcom, George Baker, Robert Bird, Dave March, Terry Rhindress and Lisa Emery to kick off the campaign to fund an enhanced gymnasium for the new school.

AMHERST – Amherst has agreed to amend its capital budget to facilitate the construction of an enhanced gymnasium at the new West Highlands Elementary School.

Although the $181,836 will be raised by the school’s advisory committee through a community fundraising effort, the town is required to include the cost in its capital budget and commit to the entire amount.

The school advisory committee has committed to raising the money needed to complete the project, the town has agreed to kick off the fundraising campaign with a contribution of $35,400 – the same amount that was committed to the enhancement at Spring Street Academy.

“This is an important community project and the fundraising team at West Highlands has our full support as they begin their campaign,” Mayor Robert Small said following a special meeting of council on Thursday. “We are very pleased that the town is able to take its place as a major contributor by making the first contribution of $35,400. Our motto is Faith in our People, Pride in our Products – this great community project is an excellent example of that and we have every confidence in the fundraising team and that the fundraising effort will be an overwhelming success.”

Now that the town has agreed to guarantee the enhancement, the mayor said it will work with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board to develop a community use agreement.

Replacing the century-old West Highlands Elementary on Hickman Street, the new school is being built on the former Lions Park and is expected to be ready for classes in September 2014.

Part of the project includes the opportunity to enhance a portion of the school. The West Highlands school advisory committee opted for a larger gymnasium to allow for fixed seating for concerts, sports and other community events.

“This is a huge step forward for us. It’s only the first step in our fundraising campaign, but it’s a big step,” advisory committee member and school principal Kevin Mapplebeck said after the meeting. “Thirty-five thousand dollars is no small amount and it represents a huge commitment on the part of the town. The town has been behind us all the way and it’s nice to know that they’ll be behind us until the end.”

Mapplebeck said the details of the fundraising campaign will be announced soon, but he said it will likely include events, both big and small, as well as a canvass of local businesses.

The principal said the committee will also be creating a West Highlands Alumni group in hopes of securing pledges from former students.

Another event will be a Mother’s Day Run in May.

Small credited Mapplebeck and school advisory council co-chairs Diana Skinner and Lorie Sonier-Mosley for their efforts on the project and he has no doubt Amherst as a whole, and the West Highlands area in particular.

Mapplebeck said students and staff at the school are excited that work has begun on the new school, but he said they’re still going to miss the existing school when it closes.

“It’s bittersweet, really,” he said. “When you’ve had something for a century it’s really hard to say good-bye. With all the excitement of the new school there’s going to be some sad moments as well. I still think everyone is looking forward to seeing the new school built and getting inside and using the most modern amentities for our children.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: West Highlands Elementary School, Street Academy, Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: West Highlands, Chignecto, Hickman Street Lions Park

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