When Premier Darrell Dexter came to Amherst last December to announce construction of a new elementary for the West Highlands section of town there was plenty of reason for parents, students and staff to be in a celebratory mood. However, when the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board announced the preferred sites over the summer there were more than a few concerns with where the new school will be located.
For that reason, it’s no surprise that the Town of Amherst is asking Education Minister Ramona Jennex to reopen the site selection process so it can propose using land around the existing Lions Park and Lion Cecil Small field for the new school.
Construction of the new multi-million-dollar elementary school is expected to start sometime this year with an opening in September 2013, but there are some real concerns with the preferred site, the Harold Lusby property on West Victoria Street. Instead of being in the centre of the West Highlands area, the school would be at its fringe and instead of being able to continue walking to classes, quite a few students may have to be bused – something that would add to the cost of operating the school.
The town feels the secondary site also has a number of shortcomings; including the fact it would be located adjacent to an asphalt plant.
At the end of the day, the province may very well move forward with either of the two preferred locations, but it should at least take a look at the proposal being brought forward by the town and the Amherst Lions Club.
While reopening the process does run the risk of slowing down the construction schedule, it would make more sense to build the right school in the right location than building the right school in the wrong location.
The people of the West Highlands area have been waiting for years for a new school to be built. Hopefully, taking an extra few weeks to make sure the right decision is made will make the most sense in the long term. The last thing we want to do is spend more than $12 million on a new school only to realize it may not have been put in the best location.