People in Wentworth could probably be excused if they don’t feel overly optimistic with the release of the guidelines that will shape the development of the hub school concept in Nova Scotia.
Parents there still feel as though the deck is stacked against them.
Wentworth is a community that is but a shadow of its former self. Going back to when the Cobequid Pass was opened in 1997, taking most of the traffic off the former Trans-Canada Highway through the Wentworth Valley, the community has experienced a period of decline.
Considering that, it was no surprise when the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board announced a few years ago that it was going to study the long-term viability of the school, along with those in Maitland and River John. It was also not surprising when the board decided that it would close all three.
We don’t want to advocate saving schools for the sake of keeping them open and it’s no secret the school board is dealing with an issue of excess square footage. The school board continues to shed students and fewer students means less provincial funding. Parents and community stakeholders thought they caught a break when the hub school concept was first proposed, but they had to feel frustrated when the board opted in June to make a decision on the futures of the schools next March instead of waiting until 2016 as suggested by Education Minister Karen Casey.
Now, the community has found its access to the school restricted over those programs that normally have access to the facility after hours have found the locks changed. The board says there were too many keys out in the community and some people were accessing the school without notifying the principal.
While it says those groups will be able to access the building in the fall by working with the principal, people can’t help but be suspicious the board’s real intention is to shut the community out so when it does decide to close Wentworth Elementary it can tell everyone that it is closing a building that has few students and isn’t being used by the community.
It may be a breakdown in communication, but you can’t blame the people of Wentworth and its community school council for feeling a little frustrated. The board can’t be faulted for wanting to make sure its schools are secure, but surely there could have been a workable solution that would ease the community’s fears – especially in the summer when there are no students present.