The CCRSB has decided to delay its decisionpotential closure of three rural schools until 2016 as requested by Education Minister Karen Casey.
NORTHPORT – The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board is only delaying its decision on the fates of three schools until next March, and parents from those communities are not impressed.
Instead of delaying the school closures for one year as requested by Education Minister Karen Casey, the board passed motions at its June meeting in Northport on Wednesday to make its decision in March 2015.
“It’s unfair for the board to ask us to come up with a plan within six months and it’s unfair for us to ask businesses to use our school facilities as part of their business. How can we expect them to prepare a business plan when we’re still waiting for guidelines from the government and what we need to put in place in order for the hub model to be carried out,” Linda Patriquin of the Wentworth School Sustainability Association. “There are still a lot of things that have to be worked out and a lot of questions that have to be answered. Backing us into a corner is totally unfair.”
In April, Casey sent a letter to the board asking it to delay the closures until 2016 to give the province more time to consider what hub models would look like as well as to hear feedback on plans for such centers within the designated schools and for continued insight on school review processes.
The minister indicated a team would be formed to develop criteria for the consideration of hub models by September.
Patriquin said committee members really can’t do much until they know what the rules are and the board’s decision won’t give them much time to their work.
Parents from Wentworth, River John and Maitland packed into the Northport school gymnasium to hear a motion from board member Vivian Farrell to reconsider. However, during the discussion Pictou County board member Gordon Anderson brought forward a motion to table the decision until March.
They stormed out in frustration after the vote.
Later Anderson told reporters he feels March is enough time.
“The minster and the department have strongly indicated that the parameters for a hub school will be coming out in September. This gives the communities time to review the parameters as well as our board,” he said. “We don’t have to close the schools next year, but this gives them and us time to review everything. The communities and the board will have solid facts.”
Anderson said the communities can come up with a plan in six months because they have already done a lot of background work. He stressed the board has not made up its mind.
“We’re trying to work with the communites and so is the department. I think this is a good compromise at this time,” he said.
Fellow Pictou County board member Ron Marks suggested the board give the communities until June 2016 as requested by the minister so they can come up with a viable plan.
He said the way it is now their schools could still close as originally planned.
“We’re not conforming to the minister’s request. What we have done is put the guillotine over their heads and said instead of 2016 we’re going to leave it at 2015, but we might approve it to go to 2015. I tell you if I were one of those people sitting out there working on this I would want as much time as possible and that’s June 30, 2016,” Marks said. “It’s a question of fairness and I believe we should go back to our original motion and change it to June 2016. We would have almost two years to explore the issue of the hub model or any other model to increase funding to keep those schools open.”
James Winn of River John said he’s really disappointed with the decision.
“By cutting back to March 2015 it takes away a lot of the time required to work on the hub model,” Winn said. “All along the board has been resistant to the people on the hub committee trying to design a model to fit the schools. It’s a game on their part to keep us busy.”
Winn said the community will continue to fight because some of the students will have to spend two and a half hours on the bus each day. He feels the minister was “right on the mark to give us the extra time and this is a slap in the face to what we’ve been trying to do. We’ve accomplished very little on this hub model because there’s no information coming from the board.”
Denise Miller from Maitland feels the board already has its mind made up.
“I feel like we’re going against Big Brother. They could easily close us in June and never have an opportunity to see what we’re working on come to life,” she said. “It’s so frustrating because we’re working and it doesn’t seem as though they’re not collaborating. They have every right to close us in June with that motion.”
Miller said people are tired, but not prepared to give up to save their school. She said it’s discouraging to put this much work into it only to face the board that doesn’t seem to be listening.