Enhancement welcome, but who should pay for it?

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The decision by Amherst to spend $35,400 to kick off the fundraising campaign for an enhanced gymnasium for the new West Highlands Elementary School is good investment in the young people of our community.

It’s unfortunate that the town and the its residents will have to pay for the enhanced gymnasium in the first place, considering the provincial government appears to be espousing the philosophy of its schools being community gathering place.

By forcing the community to pay for the enhancement it appears as though that philosophy is only in play if the community can afford it.

The $181,836 project will see the gymnasium at the new school enlarged so fixed seating can be put in place for events such as Christmas concerts, school assemblies and basketball games. These are things that bring the community into the school and will make the facility a hub for the West Highlands area of town, if not Amherst as a whole.

With the town’s investment, and its commitment to guarantee the remaining money, its up to the school advisory council to raise the rest of the money before the new school opens in September 2014.

This is a good news announcement, not just for the West Highlands area, but for the entire community. Every student in Amherst will now go to a modern facility and an excellent staff, who are providing yeoman service in an antiquated building, will finally have the tools do to their jobs to the best of their abilities.

We’ve seen school enhancement projects before. A decade ago, when Spring Street Academy was built, the community came together to raise the extra money to build a larger gym, while in Brookdale the Municipality of Cumberland put up the money through an area tax rate to enhance the gym at Cumberland North Academy.

The Susan Taylor Theatre at ARHS is another example of an enhancement to a school construction project.

In all three cases, the expanded facilities have been well used and represent solid investments in the community. Things like a larger gymnasium and bigger cafeteria go along way to toward making the Amherst area a better place to live, work and play. It’s just unfortunate that it comes with a price tag.

Considering the $11-million cost of the new building, you’d think government would be able to find an extra $181,000 in its budget to make the new West Highlands a true community school.

Organizations: West Highlands Elementary School, Street Academy, Cumberland North Academy Susan Taylor Theatre

Geographic location: Amherst, West Highlands, Brookdale

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